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Saturday, February 2, 2008

Saturday Previews

Purdue (16-5) at Illinois (10-12) 3:30 BTN
Pomeroy Rankings: Purdue #36, Illinois #35
Greenfield Rankings: Purdue #41, Illinois #106

Purdue has excelled this year with great defense, ranking in the top 25 of defensive efficiency at 89.0 (allowing 89 points per 100 possessions). The Boilers can attribute most of that to their ability to create turnovers. Purdue's opponents have been turning the ball over on 26% of their possessions, that ranks 15th best in the country, highlighted by Chris Kramer's ability to record steals. The sophomore is credited with a steal on 4% of the possessions that he is on the court, very good for the number of minutes he plays. That stat should be magnified today against an Illinois team that has had more than their share of troubles on offense this season. The Illini have been better at home winning their last two in Chaimpaign (of course against cellar-dwellers Michigan and Northwestern). These two teams met last on January 19th at Purdue with the Boilermakers winning 74-67. Surprisingly, that was the fastest game Illinois has played in conference this season in terms of possessions. Expect the pace to be much slower today with two good defenses and points hard to come by. Also, don't be surprised to see Illinois bounce back from a terrible loss at Michigan State on Wednesday, and Purdue's young team has to fall back to the pack at sometime, right?
BTC Prediction: Illinois 60 Purdue 55

Ohio State (15-6) at Iowa (10-12) 6:05 BTN
Pomeroy: Ohio State #20, Iowa #106
Greenfield: Ohio State #24, Iowa #123

The last time these two teams met in Columbus on January 9th, Buckeye coach Thad Matta pounded his friend and former assistant Todd Lickliter en route to a 79-48 Ohio State win, Iowa's worst loss in Big Ten play. Since then, the Hawkeyes have surprised many by going 3-3 in their last 6 games. The Buckeyes are also 3-3 since that win. Some may also be surprised to learn that in terms of efficiency, the Buckeyes are the best defensive team in conference not named Wisconsin. They are holding opponents to just 86.1 points per 100 possessions which ranks 8th nationally. Opposing teams are making less than 43% of their two point shots against Ohio State. Iowa's offense has been difficult to watch at times this season hindered mostly by their uncanny ability to give up possessions. The Hawkeyes turn the ball over on 26% of their offensive possessions. That was on display in their 51-50 loss at Purdue on Wednesday night when Iowa committed 22 turnovers in a game that had only 58 possessions. That coming from a coach whose Butler team last year led the nation in fewest turnovers per possession. Iowa will try to slow down the pace and cut down on those mistakes, but a win against a peaking Buckeye's team would be a big surprise.
BTC Prediction: Ohio State 62 Iowa 54

Michigan State (19-2) at Penn State (10-10) 8:00 BTN
Pomeroy: MSU #16, Penn State #101
Greenfield: MSU #10, Penn State #134

Michigan State goes into tonight's game at Happy Valley with a five game winning streak. The Spartans have been, for the most part, able to overcome their biggest weakness and seemingly annual Achilles' heel of turnovers to find themselves tied for the conference lead. If you have followed Big Ten basketball in recent years it should not be a surprise for you to learn that this year's Spartan team is fantastic at getting second chances by stockpiling offensive rebounds while also giving many more chances away by frequently turning the ball over to the other team. Michigan State again ranks very high (3rd in the nation) in offensive rebounding percentage at 42.4%. Of course they also rank low in turnover ratio (22.2%), second to last in the Big Ten ahead of only Iowa (Hawkeye turnover woes documented above). It seems this year, like any other of recent memory, if the Spartans can ever find away to trim turnovers they could be very scary come March. As for Penn State, their season needs to be broken down in two parts. BGCACL (Before Geary Claxton's torn ACL) and AGCACL (After Geary Claxton's torn ACL). Since the Nittany Lions lost Claxton for the season, they are 0-6 (losing the last 5 by double-digits). This after a surprising 10-4 start with Claxton in the starting lineup.
BTC Prediction: Michigan State 74 Penn State 60

* BTC Predictions are 22-3 on the season

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