The Big Ten basketball title race won’t be decided on Tuesday night. What will be decided is the narrative for three of the Big Ten’s potential title contenders.
It is hard to ignore the fact that No. 9 Wisconsin will travel to No. 22 Creighton in the Gavitt Games, while No. 13 Michigan State looks to shake off a tough loss to start the season by taking on No. 2 Kentucky and Maryland takes on local rival Georgetown in the other Gavitt Games matchup of the night.
Simply put, we’ll know a whole lot about these three teams and potential B1G title contenders with these matchups.
That is especially the case for the Terps, who are looking more like a rebuild than a reload in 2016-17. Even with star guard Melo Trimble back, replacing all three starters up front is going to be a challenge. So are the Hoyas, who are just one of three major conference foes on the non-conference schedule.
Let’s not forget, the last time out, Maryland struggled with mighty American in a closer-than-expected 62-56 victory to open the season.
There was no such struggle for Georgetown, who whipped the floor with South Carolina-Upstate 105-60 in its season opener.
With the limited opportunities to see the Terps taking on top-level competition before Big Ten play, this matchup takes on big time significance.
One could argue no game on Tuesday has more significance than Michigan State’s matchup with Kentucky. Not only are they two of the biggest blue-blood programs in the country, but it’s a top 15 matchup.
This game means more to Michigan State, who have decided challenging themselves after losing AP Player of the Year Denzel Valentine. MSU’s first outing didn’t exactly go the way it was hoping, losing 65-63 in the final seconds to then No. 10 Arizona in the Armed Forces Classic.
There’s no shame in losing that matchup, especially since the Spartans saw the emergence of freshman Miles Bridges. All he did was score 21 points in his college basketball debut against a top 10 team.
Can the Spartans find a second scorer as the Wildcats come a calling in the State Farm Champions Classic in
It will be a showcase event, with the one-day tournament also featuring a matchup between No. 1 Duke and No. 7 Kansas. Both Kansas and Michigan State are looking to avoid 0-2 starts to the season and deep holes in national perception that will be difficult to overcome without major results somewhere else on the season.
For Wisconsin, this is a golden opportunity for the Badgers to let the rest of the country know they are a national title contender. Going on the road to take on a top 25 team isn’t exactly a hallmark of Badgers basketball, nor for most of the country.
Usually these types of games are reserved for tournament play on neutral courts…you know, like the Maui Invitational that the Badgers will take part in later on this month.
After dominating and showcasing some depth over Central Arkansas (79-47), Wisconsin looks to show that formula will work against the top of the college basketball heap. If it does, expect the Badgers to become a team that everyone is talking about the rest of the week.
These three games are also going to go a long way towards telling us the narrative that is going to develop about the conference as a whole. It should be very competitive again, but dropping any or all of these early-season matchups makes it difficult to take the conference serious as the “best” in the land.
It has been a title the Big Ten has earned or been in serious contention for for the last four or five years easily. With MSU, Penn State and Purdue having already dropped games, winning these high-profile matchups are a necessity for perceptions sake at the very least.