This weekend, the Big Ten Saturday slate of game isn't nearly as meaningful as the Sunday slate on paper. If a couple upsets happen on Saturday, some things will get shaken up, but assuming everything goes as expected, Sunday is the day to watch the conference.
There were two pretty reasonable choices for the game to watch Saturday. #5 Wisconsin hosts Northwestern, and in theory any game that involves the top team in conference should probably be the game to watch (as I said last week). However, Northwestern is the worst team in conference, and they probably aren't going to win in Madison. Therefore, I'm not going to preview that bloodbath.
Illinois at Michigan State, Noon, ESPN
Why this game is important: This game is right in the soft squishy middle of the conference (where we also happen to reside), and we've already played both of these teams once. We beat Illinois, and only play them once this year, so any tiebreak with them we win automatically. MSU, on the other hand, has already beaten us once, and doesn't come to Assembly Hall until the very end of the season, so we need a bit of help if we need to look better than them for some reason (say, tourney seeding or some such). For that reason, seeing the Illini triumph in the Breslin Center is probably best for us.
What can we learn: Will we need to worry about tiebreakers with Illinois late in the season? How has Michigan State changed (or not changed) from our first meeting? Is this game actually going to be better than Northwestern-Wisconsin?
#17 Maryland at Iowa, 3:15pm, BTN
Why this game is important: The Terrapins are currently hanging just above the middle of the conference quagmire; Iowa is firmly entrenched in it. We've beaten Maryland once, but still have to go there in a few days; we host Iowa in our only meeting late in the season. This game doesn't have quite the same implications as Illinois-Michigan State, but it could still be very important for later seeding purposes. It also might give us an idea of how Iowa will look later, and whether Maryland will be ready to play us again.
What can we learn: Is Iowa still as dangerous as they could be? Will Maryland be healthy and capable of avenging their beatdown in Assembly Hall? What are the changes of something like this happening?
#20 Ohio State at Rutgers, 5:30pm, BTN
Why this game is important: Rutgers gave the conference leader their only loss so far. Ohio State has been up and down, but is starting to put it together as the season progresses. If the Buckeyes can shake off whatever it was that caused them to lose to Purdue, they might just knock the Scarlet out of the Scarlet Knights.
What can we learn: How will the Buckeyes respond to adversity? Can Rutgers defend home court against one of the top teams in conference? What amount of scarlet is too much?