With the college basketball season in full swing, Matt Fargo takes a look at three big games on tap that you cannot miss this Saturday. There aren't a whole lot of huge, marquee conference games this weekend but a lot of games will go a long way in positioning for the upcoming conference tournaments. Iowa Hawkeyes at Indiana Hoosiers 12:00 PM ET The logjam in the Big Ten is getting bigger as no team seems to be able to take a hold of first place and run away. One and a half games separate the top seven teams with Iowa holding a slim half game lead over Illinois, Ohio St. and Michigan St. The home teams have been able to hold serve on their floors as those top seven teams have a combined 79-8 home record.
Michigan suffered a rare home loss on Thursday. The Hawkeyes are coming off a surprising loss at Northwestern on Wednesday to further complicate things. It snapped a four-game winning streak for Iowa, who like most Big Ten teams, become a whole different squad when traveling. The Hawkeyes have one of the top defenses in the nation in both points allowed and shooting, ranking 20th and 7th respectively but those numbers increase dramatically when hitting the road. Indiana is coming off a loss of its own, an 18-point debacle at Wisconsin on Wednesday.
The Hoosiers have now dropped four of their last five games but three of those were on the road while the one home loss was against Connecticut, the top team in the country. Indiana is 8-2 at home, losing only to the Huskies and Duke by eight points each so the defeats certainly were not bad by any means. The Hoosiers will be looking to recover from that smashing by the Badgers and will also be looking to avenge a 13-point loss at Iowa back on January 24th. The Hawkeyes have been only able to defeat Penn St.
and Purdue on the road, two of the worst teams in the conference with a combined 5-16 record. However, Indiana has dropped six straight and nine of 10 against the number so Iowa certainly has a shot in this one. Southern Illinois Salukis at Creighton Bluejays 2:00 PM ET There seems to be a huge matchup in the MVC every Saturday and this weekend is no exception.
Creighton is tied with Northern Iowa for first place while the Salukis sit just one game back. The Bluejays are the hotter of the two teams as they come in winners of 10 of their last 11 games with the only loss in that span coming at Southern Illinois. The Salukis have dropped two of three overall and three of their last four on the road. Creighton will no doubt be looking for some revenge as it was held to only 48 points on 32.7 percent shooting in the first meeting, both season lows.
The Bluejays are a perfect 12-0 at home on the season and that includes big wins over Nebraska, Xavier, Wichita St. and Northern Iowa. They have won 16 straight games at Qwest Center OMAHA dating back to last season with exactly half of those coming by 16 points or more. Southern Illinois has been struggling away from home and a lot of that has to do with a lack of offense. Overall, the offense is a putrid 306th in points scored at 61.4 ppg and they are averaging only 57.
8 ppg on the highway. It has been the defense that has led them to a winning road mark on the season as Southern Illinois is 5th in the country in points allowed with 56.3 ppg and 23rd in field goal defense at 39.7 percent shooting. Creighton is allowing only 60.8 ppg, 32nd in the country, so it can play some defense of its own.
The Salukis have won five straight meetings since falling 80-56 to the Bluejays in the 2003 MVC Tournament finals. Two of those wins have taken place in Omaha and Southern Illinois is the only team to win on this floor in two straight years since the 1997-98 season when Illinois St. did it five straight years. Montana St.
Bobcats at Montana Grizzlies 10:00 PM ET This is arguably the biggest rivalry in the Big Sky Conference and it takes on even more meaning in the second meeting of the season. The Bobcats and Grizzlies are tied for second place with identical 6-3 conference records, putting them two and a half games back of Northern Arizona for the top spot. Only two and a half games separate them from 6th place as well so winner will be in good position while the loser will need to scramble. Montana St. has dropped two of its last three road games but still boast a solid 5-1 mark against the number on the highway. The Bobcats were held to a season low 56 points in their last game at Weber St.
which was a huge surprise as they have one of the best offenses in the country. Montana St. is 45th in the nation in field goal percentage and 16th in three-point shooting while averaging 75 ppg, 59th overall.
Montana returns home after two straight road losses, the last being a humbling 25-point defeat at Idaho St., currently 2-8 in the conference. The Grizzlies are 9-1 at home this season, losing only a non-conference battle with Wisconsin-Milwaukee by four points.
They are 4-0 in Big Sky home games but three of those wins were by six points or less. This is another great offensive team, averaging 79.1 ppg, 23rd in the country, on 50 percent shooting, 4th best in college basketball.
While both offenses can light it up, the defenses do not do a good job of holding down the opposition. Montana is ranked 220th in points given up and 221st in field goal percentage allowed. The Bobcats are even worse, allowing 73 ppg, 273rd nationally, while allowing 45.
4 percent shooting from the floor, good for 264th. The Grizzlies won the first meeting at Montana St. by 16 points back in mid-January so the Bobcats will be looking for some payback but it won't be easy. .
By: Matt Fargo