We're nearing the halfway point of the Big Ten season, and many teams still have a lot to prove. After falling from the top 25, Indiana looks for an upset win over the conference best Badgers to bolster their tournament resume. Nebraska desperately needs a victory if they want to stay in the picture, and Illinois could get a big boost if they can win and get to .500 in conference play. What to expect in a solid night of Big Ten action.
Game of the Night
Indiana Hoosiers @ #5 Wisconsin Badgers - 7:00 ET (ESPN)
Its surprising to think that nationally #5 ranked Wisconsin has only one ranked win this season (#25 Iowa). While posting a 19-2 record is impressive, some may argue that the Badgers have struggled when facing stronger competition so far. Their early season loss to #4 Duke is understandable, and upsets like Rutgers do happen, but really how good is Wisconsin? Unranked Michigan, arguably the third best team they've faced this season, took them to overtime a little over a week ago in Ann Arbor, hitting shots with their guards Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin.
The Badgers have had issues when dealing with athleticism, ceding the Rutgers game to a hot Myles Mack with 21 points and losing to Duke with guard Tyus Jones scoring 22. Indiana (16-6, 6-3) has one of the most ferocious backcourts in the Big Ten with Yogi Ferrell and James Blackmon Jr., and poses a major threat to Wisconsin. While Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker will do their jobs in the post, its the elusiveness of guards like Blackmon and Ferrell that can wreak havoc on Bo Ryan's team. Indiana is high scoring, dropping 80.3 PPG, much due to their smaller lineup with more scoring capability. What they will lack in size to Wisconsin, they will make up for in guard play and speed.
Wisconsin obviously enters this game as the favorite, but don't be surprised to see Indiana make a run at this one. They have the key pieces that can find the Badgers' Achilles heel, something not a lot of teams in the Big Ten can boast. If everything falls into place, we should have a very interesting game in Madison tonight.
Northwestern Wildcats @ Nebraska Cornhuskers - 7:30 ET (BTN)
For Northwestern, the end of the season cannot come soon enough. The Wildcats are hovering at the bottom of the Big Ten with a sub .500 10-11 record including 1-7 in conference play. While they've come painstakingly close to upsets numerous times, Chris Collins & Co. been unable to get anything going. The Cats have no answer for Terran Petteway, let alone Shavon Shields and are strongly outmatched in this one. Huskers should take it and run.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights @ Illinois Fighting Illini - 9:30 ET (BTN)
The Illini (14-8, 4-5) seek to improve to .500 in the conference for the first time this year when they host the Scarlet Knights on Tuesday. In the absence of injured and now suspended Rayvonte Rice, Malcom Hill has taken up the slack. After dropping 27 points against Penn State on Saturday, Hill was named co-Big Ten player of the week. The sophomore has likely been the most improved Big Ten player this season, averaging 14.6 PPG compared to last year's 4.4. He and fellow guard Kendrick Nunn will look continue to lead this team as the Illini strive for a tourney berth. Even with their losses of Rice and Aaron Cosby, Illinois remains the more talented team. They should pull this one out at the State Farm Center.