All the data yesterday pointed to Illinois finding a way to win and cover at home against Indiana. After a slow start to the season, the Illini had really started to figure things out down the stretch as they had picked up recent nice wins over Nebraska, Michigan State, Rutgers, Ohio State, and Northwestern. And when you looked at Indiana, the Hoosiers were just 7-12 in Big 10 play and had lost twelve out of their last thirteen games before a recent modest two-game winning streak. But something about this team had made me a believer, and not only did I expect the Hoosiers to cover the spread, I expected them to win outright.
And that is exactly what happened. And really, it wasn’t even all the competitive. The Hoosiers had a double-digit lead at the half and coasted to a dominant victory. The win was the third straight for Indiana as they look to get themselves situated back on the right side of the bubble, just days before Selection Sunday. I said two weeks ago that I saw Indiana figuring things out and finding a way to backdoor into the tournament, and they have now won three straight games.
Indiana wraps up the regular season on Saturday with a home game against Rutgers where they should be favorites and then hit the Big 10 tournament. If the Hoosiers can win a game or two in the Big 10 tournament, I think the committee puts them in. They always say they want to reward teams that go out and play people, and Indiana has had one of the toughest schedules in the country, and they have lots of quality wins.
If the Hoosiers do manage to make the cut, nobody is going to want to see their name across the bracket. For today’s pick, we will stay right here in the Big 10 as the Maryland Terrapins host the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
The Minnesota Golden Gophers are another team that is riding right on the cut line of the bubble, and they will try and solidify their resume tonight in Maryland against the Terrapins. The Gophers gave their tournament chances a huge boost when they knocked off the eleventh ranked Boilermakers of Purdue in their last game. If Minnesota can pick up another big conference win today against a ranked opponent, you can safely slide them into the lock category.
For Maryland, they have spent most of the season as the hardest to predict team in the Big 10. They have shown they can beat great teams when they took care of business against Purdue, Wisconsin, and Iowa. But they also showed that they are young and inexperienced with losses to out of contention teams like Penn State and Illinois. The Terrapins are -7-point home favorites. The game total over-under is set at 135 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:00 PM PST from the Xfinity Center in College Park.
Just when we start to think, man this Maryland team just might be really good, they suffer a setback. Earlier this season, Maryland snuck into the top twenty-five nationally, and they looked like they just might compete with the top of the league for the Big 10 regular season title. Then they lost three games out of four and faded back into the pack. They followed up that rough patch by picking up their biggest win of the season against Purdue and found themselves thrown right back into the spotlight.
Only to once again lose their way, as coming into play tonight, they have lost three out of their last five games. Two of those losses were to Michigan, no big deal there. But the other loss was a blowout loss to a bad Penn State team. It is a tough pill to swallow for a team as talented as this Maryland one is to be so inconsistent.
Minnesota is another team that certainly looks like a tournament level team, they just can’t seem to win close games. When you look at their recent losses in Big 10 play, it is heartbreak after heartbreak for the Gophers. They lost single-digit contests to Rutgers, Michigan twice, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. The Gophers are a couple of possessions away from having a much better record.
These two teams matched up earlier this year in Minnesota, and the Terrapins blew them out. The Terrapins shot over 54% from the field as a team and beat Minnesota by fifteen on their own floor. Bruno Fernando had a double-double, and both Cowan Jr and Jalen Smith scored at least twenty points for Maryland.
I am a bit surprised to see this number so low. I know that Minnesota seems to be playing better at the moment, and they have a habit of losing close games. But when you look at the Terrapins home record, they are 14-3, they know how to protect their floor. And the Gophers? They are just 2-8 in true road games.
I think Maryland handles this game with relative ease tonight. To me this a classic letdown game as the Gophers are coming off an enormous win over Purdue, that very likely punched their ticket to March Madness. If they come out a bit flat tonight on the road, don’t at all be shocked. So, I’ll lay a little wood and back the home team. Give me the Maryland Terrapins as seven-point home favorites tonight!