Big Ten Tonight Is Way Out In the Water, Still Swimming




Most fans are still trying to get their mind around the Bill Carmody contract extension, as emotions seem to range from indifferent to outraged. The whole situation has been discussed ad nauseum both here and on other NU blogs, so I won't rehash the same points here. One point in his favor, certainly, is that he has always run a clean program and his players have consistently stayed out of trouble.

The same cannot be said for Tubby Smith at Minnesota. Last week, the oft-suspended Devoe Joseph finally decided he'd had enough and transferred to Oregon, and last night, star forward Trevor Mbakwe was arrested for violating a restraining order against an ex-girlfriend. This would appear serious, especially considering Mbakwe's past legal troubles, but according to this report from Nadine Babu at GopherHole.com, all he did was send her a polite message on Facebook, and the ex-girlfriend promptly called the cops and had him arrested. It would seem unlikely for Mbakwe to miss any playing time (Minnesota hosts Purdue on Thursday and will probably need Mbakwe in the lineup to have a chance), but all these distractions have to be driving Gopher fans nuts.

Tonight's Big Ten action after the jump:

Wisconsin Badgers at Michigan St. Spartans (-4), 6 PM central, ESPN

This is pretty much a must-win game for Sparty if they want to have any chance at the Big Ten title, but they'll have their hands full against Bo Ryan's Badgers. Amazingly (at least to me), Wisconsin has won 15 of the last 20 against Michigan State, and I expect that trend to continue tonight. The Spartans have struggled all season long, and a match-up against the disciplined Badgers isn't a recipe for turning things around. Take Wisconsin and the points and watch Jon Leuer go off.

Illinois Fighting Illini at Penn St. Nittany Lions (+4.5), 8 PM central, BTN

Illinois hasn't played since torching Northwestern on Thursday, which might be a bad thing given how well they are shooting the ball. In three Big Ten games, the Illini are shooting 64% on threes and 65% on twos, which has to be frightening to the rest of the league. Meanwhile, Penn State has a great opportunity tonight: with a second consecutive upset of a ranked opponent, they can get themselves into the NCAA tournament conversation, something that seemed impossible after the loss to Maine. Saturday's upset over Michigan State may even get Nits fans to at least partially fill the cavernous Bryce Jordan Center.

That being said, I'm just not buying an Ed DeChellis coached team as a contender for anything but the Big Ten basement. Here's what I think happens tonight: Penn State hangs around for a while behind solid interior play from Jeff Brooks, then Illinois hits some threes and takes a bit of a lead, Talor Battle goes into chucker mode to make up the deficit and misses some NBA threes, and the Illini pull away and win by ten. Penn State still ranks last in the conference in defense, so take Illinois and hope the hot shooting continues.

Gambling record: 11-8-1

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