This weekend has quite a few competitive games, but the best two are arguably the Saturday games. With four games on Sunday, including the Indiana game, I only previewed the game most likely to matter down the road. Each of these games features a ranked team in a situation where they are in some danger of losing (your danger may vary), and many of the teams are at or above where the Hoosiers currently stand in conference play. As we get closer to the end of the season, these are the matchups that could make or break Indiana's chances in both the Big Ten Tournament and the seeding for the NCAA Tournament.
#23 Ohio State at Michigan State, Noon, ESPN
Why this game is important: The Buckeyes have been somewhat inconsistent recently, while the Spartans have been somewhat inconsistent the entire season. Both of these teams have looked like they've put it all together at one time or another, and then fallen apart again. In particular, Michigan State has not looked nearly as fearsome at home as they usually do. With both of these teams still fighting for a top spot in conference, the team that can put together the most complete 40 minutes of basketball is likely to emerge victorious.
What can we learn: Will the Hoosiers be able to stand toe to toe with the Spartans later on? Will this game be the difference between having a double bye for the Big Ten Tourney and being 5th or lower? Is either team capable of winning this game in regulation?
#19 Maryland at Penn State, 8:30pm, BTN
Why this game is important: This game will probably come down to who performs better between DJ Newbill's supporting cast and Melo Trimble's supporting cast. Maryland has looked very good at times, and utterly dreadful at other times (mostly on the road). While sounding the upset alert for this game is probably a bit of overkill, it's worth checking the score at various points just in case the Nittany Lions make a game of it.
What can we learn: Can the Terrapins do better than winning by 6 at home earlier this season? Will Penn State get reasonable production from people not named DJ Newbill? Would a Big Ten Tourney matchup against either of these teams be anything less than mildly terrifying?
Illinois at #5 Wisconsin, 1pm, CBS
Why this game is important: It's a game featuring the Big Ten leader on a nationally broadcast network. They could be playing Northwest Bemidji State (note: may not be an actual school), and this would still be a game to watch. That said, Illinois has shown surprising competency at times this season, so they might be able to hold their own with the Badgers. Even if they can't, it's a chance to watch potential player of the year candidate Frank Kaminsky do his thing.
What can we learn: Is anyone in this conference capable of beating Wisconsin when they have Kaminsky available? How is Illinois doing so well this year? What else would you be watching while pregaming for IU-Minnesota?