Wisconsin-Michigan State headlines Big Ten’s Christmas slate

Sports

A look at the upcoming week around the Big Ten Conference:

GAME OF THE (HOLIDAY) WEEKEND: No. 9 Wisconsin (7-1, 1-0 Big Ten) at No. 12 Michigan State (6-1, 0-1): This Christmas Day matinee – one of four Big Ten games taking place Friday – features the teams that shared the league’s regular-season title with Maryland last season. Wisconsin has nine consecutive Big Ten victories but owns a 4-22 record at the Breslin Center. The Badgers had lost eight straight matchups with Michigan State before edging the Spartans 64-63 in Madison on Feb. 1. Michigan State is trying to bounce back from a stunning 79-65 loss at Northwestern in its Big Ten opener. The Big Ten’s other Christmas Day games include Maryland at Purdue, No. 19 Michigan at Nebraska and No. 4 Iowa at Minnesota.

LOOKING AHEAD: The Big Ten’s strength is evident from the fact that half of its 14 members are part of the Top 25: Iowa, Wisconsin, No. 11 Rutgers, Michigan State, No. 18 Illinois, Michigan and No. 23 Ohio State. But the early part of the season suggests the teams in the bottom half of the league might make some noise, too. Northwestern grabbed plenty of attention with its victory over a Michigan State that was ranked fourth at the time, marking the Wildcats’ first win over a top-five team since 1979. Wisconsin won 67-53 at home against Nebraska on Tuesday, but only after the Cornhuskers built a 10-point edge in the first half and briefly led after halftime. Perhaps that’s an indication this Big Ten season might produce a few more upsets than usual.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Minnesota’s Marcus Carr collected 32 points and seven assists in a 90-82 victory over Saint Louis on Sunday. That marked the junior guard’s second game this season with at least 30 points, as he had 35 in a season-opening triumph over Green Bay.Carr is averaging 23.9 points and six assists this season. He has scored at least 15 points in each of Minnesota’s first eight games and has at least 26 points in half of them.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Iowa’s Luka Garza leads the nation in scoring (29.3). He has scored 20-plus points in 17 straight Big Ten games, the longest such streak since Ohio State’s Dennis Hopson also did it in 17 straight games in 1987. . Northwestern is 2-0 in Big Ten competition for the first time since the 2005-06 season. The Wildcats followed their upset of Michigan State by winning 74-67 at Indiana. … Illinois beat Penn State 98-81 on Wednesday while posting its highest point total in a Big Ten non-overtime game since a 99-57 triumph over Northwestern on March 8, 1995. … Wisconsin hasn’t exceeded 11 turnovers in 27 consecutive games. The Badgers entered the week having committed the fewest turnovers per game of any Division I team. . Maryland had just four turnovers – its lowest total in Mark Turgeon’s 10-season coaching tenure – during an 84-71 victory over La Salle on Tuesday.

ON THE WOMEN’S SIDE: The Big Ten leads all conferences with six schools in the Top 25,though none of its teams are in the top 13. The ranked Big Ten teams include No. 14 Maryland, No. 15 Northwestern, No. 16 Ohio State, No. 17 Michigan, No. 19 Indiana and No. 25 Michigan State. The Big Ten last had six ranked teams in Jan. 14, 2019. . Maryland has scored over 100 points in three of its last four games. The Terrapins have six players averaging 11 points, led by Diamond Miller with 18 points per game.

Follow Steve Megargee at https://twitter.com/stevemegargee

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

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