For the first time in a few Thursdays, there's not really a marquee matchup in the Big Ten. In the two games being played tonight, only one team is currently ranked. Still, two games of Big Ten basketball are better than none, and both games tonight have a chance to be competitive. I know, that description didn't exactly get you excited, but let's take a look at both games. Penn State will try to get revenge on Nebraska after losing a few weeks back, while Illinois will try to knock off Indiana.
Game of the Night:
Indiana has been on a roll lately, winning three of its last four games, including victories over Iowa and Purdue. Now, they have a far less daunting task, with a game against struggling Illinois tonight.
Simply put, its been a season from hell for the Fighting Illini. John Groce's crew has been hit by the injury bug all year, and have been sinking in conference play. Illinois is just 4-10 in the Big Ten and is 3-7 in its last 10 games, with its only wins coming against Rutgers and Minnesota. They also lost to Indiana 103-69 on Jan. 19.
If the Fighting Illini want to upset Indiana, they will need to get scoring from more players than just Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn. Hill is averaging 18.6 points this season and Nunn is averaging 16.4, but the Illini have gotten far less from the of their starters. Players like Jalen Coleman-Lands and Khalid Lewis will need to get some buckets tonight as well.
The Hooisers have much more firepower with Yogi Ferrell, Troy Williams and Thomas Bryant. Illinois will likely focus on shutting down Ferrell (16.6 points, 5.5 assists, 3.9 rebounds), but the senior guard is more than capable at setting up his teammates. One of the biggest advantages Indiana has in this game is its size and skill in the front court. Bryant and Max Bielfedt are both solid scorers, and should both get plenty of chances against Illinois' small-ball lineup. The Fighting Illinois only start one true big man in Maverick Morgan and bring Michael Finke off the bench, and neither of them are as skilled as Bryant.
With upcoming games against Iowa and Maryland, Indiana won't want to let a winnable game like this slip away. It would be surprising if the Hoosiers lost this one.
Penn State has been a weird team this season. The Nittany Lions are 3-1 in their last three games with wins over Indiana and Iowa, but lost to Nebraska 70-54 in between. Tonight, the Lions will have a chance to redeem themselves for that performance.
The Cornhuskers aren't pushovers. They earned a signature win earlier in the season by beating Michigan state and have two extremely skilled players in Andrew White (17.4 points, 6.4 rebounds) and Shavon Shields (15.7 points, 5.0 rebounds). They're also just 2-6 in their last eight games. This matchup should be closer than last time, but it could go either way.