We're almost at the end of the regular season, college basketball fans. While we know you're all gearing up for the Big Ten tournament, there are still a few games before the postseason to get through this week. Tonight, we've got two of them. Maryland tries to regain some momentum before the conference tournament with a home game against Illinois, while Northwestern tries to get some revenge against Penn State on the road. Here's a look at both games.
Game of the Night: Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Maryland Terrapins (7:00 p.m. ET | ESPN)
Things haven't been going too smoothly for Maryland the past few weeks. The Terrapins are just 1-3 in their past four games, and enter Thursday coming off a loss to Purdue last Saturday. This doesn't spell doom for Maryland, which is still one of the most talented teams in the country and a squad that has the potential to go deep into March. Still, it certainly wouldn't hurt the Terrapins to finish the regular season with two straight wins. That shouldn't be too difficult with one of game coming against Illinois.
Things haven't gone smoothly for Illinois this season. The Fighting Illini are 13-16 overall and just 5-11 in conference play, and have dealt with a number of injuries. They've got a couple of talented scorers in wings Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill, but lack skill at point guard and size in the post. That will hurt them against Maryland, as the Terrapins will gladly allow Melo Trimble and Diamond Stone take over the game.
If this game was being played just a few weeks ago, I'd probably give the Fighting Illini no chance. But with the way the Terrapins are playing lately, anything is possible. Trimble is shooting just 23 percent over the last four games, and Maryland's defense isn't exactly shutting teams down. Plus, Illinois is coming off of a win over lowly Minnesota, and the Golden Gophers beat the Terrapins just two weeks ago. Ok, maybe that last point doesn't matter too much, but it at least shows that Maryland can't afford to take the teams at the bottom of the Big Ten lightly.
If Maryland plays up to its capabilities, it should win this one fairly easily. It just depends on which version of the Terrapins shows up.
It's been a frustrating season for the Wildcats, and you've got to think that their Jan. 16 loss to the Nittany Lions was one of their lowest moments. Northwestern shot just 39 percent from the field that day, with an absolutely atrocious 11.5 mark from behind the arc. The Lions responded by going 9-for-21 (43 percent) from 3 in a 71-62 victory.
It would be surprising to see both team repeat those shooting performances this time around. The Wildcats are shooting 36 percent on 3-pointers this season, while the Lions are hitting just 31 percent. Still, it should be a fairly close game once again, as both teams are pretty evenly matchup. We'll see how it goes.