On New Year's Eve 2012, Big Ten basketball will tip off. I for one am extremely excited for the conference season to get going and see what each team is really made of after getting some nonconference games under their belt.
The Michigan State Spartans travel to Minneapolis and tip off at 1 p.m. CST, while the Hoosiers of Indiana head to Iowa City and will being league play at 3 p.m. CST. Needless to say, both should be exciting contest. Here's a look at how each team's starting lineups match up:
Center: Derrick Nix vs. Trevor Mbakwe
Edge: Mbakwe (Minnesota)
Power Forward: Branden Dawson vs. Rodney Williams Jr.
Edge: Williams (Minnesota)
Small Forward: Denzel Valentine vs. Austin Hollins
Edge: Hollins (Minnesota)
Shooting Guard: Gary Harris vs. Joe Coleman
Edge: Harris (Michigan State)
Point Guard: Keith Appling vs. Andre Hollins
Edge: Appling (Michigan State)
Last season, the Spartans knocked off the Golden Gophers in both matchups. I do not believe this to be the case in 2012-13, however.
Nix-Mbakwe should be an interesting matchup, though Mbakwe is much more physical than the slimmed-down Nix and should have his way in the paint. Dawson-Williams is a matchup of freak athletes, one that the elder Williams barely edges out.
Valentine-Hollins is another matchup where experience pays, as the junior Hollins should have no problem. Harris-Coleman goes to the younger player, as the freshman Harris is a pure scorer. The point guard matchup of Appling-Hollins may be the most intriguing.
Appling is not a true point guard, but is nearly impossible to guard in an one-on-one matchup. Hollins may have something to say about that though, having already dropped 41 points in a game earlier this season against Memphis.
Prediction: Minnesota 68 Michigan State 60
Center: Cody Zeller vs. Adam Woodbury
Edge: Zeller (Indiana)
Power Forward: Christian Watford vs. Aaron White
Edge: Iowa (White)
Small Forward: Victor Oladipo vs. Roy Devyn Marble
Edge: Oladipo (Indiana)
Shooting Guard: Jordan Hulls vs. Mike Gesell
Edge: Hulls (Indiana)
Point Guard: Yogi Ferrell vs. Anthony Clemmons
Edge: Ferrell (Indiana)
When these two teams faced off last season, the home team won on both occasions. IU defeated Iowa 103-89 in Bloomington, while the Hawkeyes returned the favor with a 78-66 victory in Iowa City, where Monday's game will be played.
Zeller certainly has the edge over a large but inexperienced Woodbury at center. Sophomore Aaron White isn't afraid to use his athleticism but can also step out and knock down shots, while Christian Watford has looked timid at times this season.
Oladipo-Marble is the game's best matchup, between each team's best player at this point in the season. Oladipo's defense gives him only the slightest nod here, though Marble is a stat sheet stuffer. Hulls-Gesell is a matchup of shooters, though Hulls is one of the nation's best from deep.
Two freshmen face off at the one-guard position in Ferrell and Clemmons. Ferrell looks to get his teammates involved, while Clemmons may have more of a scorer's instinct. This matchup could truly go either way on Monday as well.
Prediction: Indiana 83 Iowa 80