While 10 of the Big Ten's 12 teams will be in action this Saturday, there is only one matchup on both Thursday and Friday involving B1G teams. What makes each of these matchups intriguing is that both come against in-state opponents.
Nebraska hosts the Creighton Bluejays at 7 p.m. CT Thursday night, while Iowa plays at home against Iowa State at 7 p.m. CT Friday evening, which will be displayed on Big Ten Network. For as strong as the Big Ten conference is, don't be surprised to see both Big Ten teams come in as underdogs to these games, even while playing at home.
Creighton @ Nebraska
Creighton travels from Omaha to Lincoln with a 7-1 record to take on a 6-1 Cornhusker squad. Nebraska is unblemished at home this season, boasting a 5-0 record there, but that could change if Doug McDermott has anything to say about it.
Heralded as one of the nation's top and most complete players, McDermott is averaging 21.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.4 assists, with a 54 percent shooting mark from the field and 88 percent success rate at the foul line. Creighton is currently ranked 16th.
McDermott is the son of Greg McDermott, head coach of the Bluejays. Alongside Doug are fellow veterans Ethan Wragge, Gregory Echenique, Austin Chatman, and Grant Gibbs. Creighton's lone loss came at home to Boise State. They have, however, defeated the Big Ten's Wisconsin Badgers.
After a 4-0 start against inferior competition, Nebraska lost by 14 to Kent State at home. Following the loss, though, Tim Miles' team has responded with back-to-back wins at Wake Forest and at home against USC, by 16 and 12 point margins, respectively.
Dylan Talley, Brandon Ubel, and Ray Gallegos all average between 14.0 and 15.6 points. Andre Almeida also nearly averages double-figure scoring at 9.4 points per contest. Almeida stands 6'11" and weighs 314 pounds, which limits his playing time.
Ubel was the only returning starter from last year's Nebraska team that tied Penn State for last place during the Big Ten season with a 14-4 league record. Talley came off Doc Sadler's bench a year ago, but now starts for the first-year head coach Miles.
Youngsters Benny Parker and David Rivers have also been sparks for the Huskers. While a 6-1 start is encouraging for the team that was picked to finish last in this year's deep Big Ten, it's still too early to predict anything other than another near-bottom finish in the nation's top conference.
Nebraska was able to knock off Indiana at home last season, a place where the Cornhuskers play leaps and bounds better than when on the road. Nonetheless, I'm picking Creighton to win tomorrow night. The Bluejays should break away late in the contest, winning by eight.
Iowa State @ Iowa
Fred Hoiberg's Iowa State Cyclones travel to Iowa City on Friday evening as the nation's top rebounding team. At 5-2, Iowa State also ranks 14th in the nation in points per game, at 82.4. Friday night will mark the team's second road game, the first being a 12-point loss at UNLV.
The other Cyclone loss came against Cincinnati, while their best win to date was over Brigham Young. Four ISU players average double-figures in scoring: Will Clyburn (Utah transfer), Tyrus McGee, Melvin Ejim, and Georges Niang.
Hoiberg is a strong advocate of picking up transfers, many of which formerly played in the Big Ten. Last year's team dressed Royce White (Minnesota) and Chris Allen (Michigan State), while this year's team also contains Korie Lucious (Michigan State) and Chris Babb (Penn State).
Iowa looks to get revenge after losing to their in-state rival a year ago in Ames, coming into this contest with a 6-2 record, including a perfect 5-0 in their home territory. Fran McCaffery's team's losses have come against Wichita State and Virginia Tech.
Iowa only has two double-digit scorers, but has shown great depth with nine players seeing the floor for more than 14 minutes per game. Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White are the team's top two guys. Marble is a solid all-around player, while White is a versatile forward.
Freshman center Adam Woodbury and point guard Mike Gesell each have cracked the Hawkeyes starting lineup, proving McCaffery's recent recruiting success. The enigmatic Melsahn Basabe has been fun to watch coming off the bench, while Josh Oglesby is one of the league's best pure shooters.
Just like the previous contest described, this game should come down to the wire and likely be even closer. While I believe Hoiberg and Iowa State are the better overall team at this juncture in the season, I like the Hawkeyes' chances to remain unbeaten at home and steal this one by three points.