It's been a mostly slow December on the Big Ten sports scene. Normally, bowl action would have started on Saturday in the Motor City Bowl, but with the conference falling short of eligible teams, football doesn't resume until the 27th. But Saturday will produce some good basketball games with teams working on either making a statement or building a resume.
Minnesota plays Louisville in a neutral site tip at Glendale, AZ. The Gophers made a good run at an NCAA bid last year before falling short. They're off to a 9-0 start against mostly non-descript competition this year. But they did beat Virginia, and is it ironic that Tubby Smith's breakout game this year could come against his old archrival from Bluegrass Country? Rick Pitino's Cardinals are one of several Big East teams with the goods for a Final Four run.
Northwestern is off to a 7-1 start that includes the scalps of DePaul and Florida State. Now they'll go out to a Stanford for a late-night game. The Cardinal is 5-0, although they haven't played anyone yet. Saturday will tell us if this year's 'Cats might be able to make a push for the NIT.
The last time Davidson played a Big Ten team they were breaking Wisconsin's heart in the regionals last March. This year they take on a Purdue squad looking to show that it's the team to beat in this conference. The Boilers have lost to two high-profile teams, a close one to Oklahoma and decisively to Duke. Both foes were likely much better then anything they'll see in league play, but the same cannot be said of Davidson. This will be a good test for Matt Painter's club in Conseco Fieldhouse (4 EST, CBS).
And the biggest game of the day will be Michigan State-Texas. Like Purdue, the Spartans were a team to beat in this league, but have missed early opportunities in non-conference play. MSU played poorly in a loss to Maryland (albeit without Goran Suton) and were hammered by North Carolina. They do have a win over one Big 12 foe in Oklahoma State, and will look for another in Austin against the fifth-ranked Longhorns (2 EST, CBS).