Big Ten basketball had Martin Luther King day off yesterday but returns with a two-game slate tonight. The Michigan Wolverines travel to the Kohl Center in Madison while the Illinois Fighting Illini head to East Lafayette to take on the Purdue Boilermakers at Mackey Arena.
Either contest is expected to be tight, as Vegas predicts the home team will win by double digits in both affairs. But, as we have seen lately, anything can happen—especially in the Big Ten.
All spreads are based on Covers.com
Big Ten Game of the Day
-Michigan at Wisconsin
- Time/TV: 9PM ET — ESPN
- Spread: Wisconsin (-11)
Wisconsin players are likely envied by most of their fellow Big Ten peers. Not just because they are a talented team, but more so due to the fact they have yet to play a weekend conference game this season. The Badgers’ starters look to avoid any potential rust off when they host the Wolverines, as Greg Gard’s regulars saw limited minutes in their blowout 89-66 victory over Ohio State on Thursday night.
Wisconsin reserves have made a habit of gaining valuable experience while the Badgers coasted to pleasant blowout victories in two of their four Big Ten games thus far. Freshman guard D’Mitrik Trice has emerged as an effective role player coming off the pine, leading Wisconsin’s substitutes with an average of 17.3 minutes and 6.3 points a contest.
Junior Jordan Hill has seen his minutes decrease significantly from a season ago with the oncoming of Trice, but he still has the potential to provide key minutes for the team. Sophomores Khalil Iverson and and Alex Illikainen round out the Badgers’ primary reserves.
Michigan will rely on an upperclassmen backcourt of Zak Irvin to Derrick Walton Jr. to have any chance at upsetting a conference heavyweight on the road. The Wolverines come off a quality win over Nebraska, who were 3-1 in conference play before Michigan fended them off at home.
Against the Cornhuskers, Irvin and Walton Jr. combined for 41 points on 12-for-24 shooting, including Walton Jr.’s red-hot 3-for-3 from three-point territory. Sophomore Moritz Wagner joined his elder teammates in scoring, leading the team with 23 points.
Although not inconceivable, it will take some serious pull from the Wolverines to upset the Badgers in Madison. The UW student section should be starting to beef up as winter break winds down. The team is rested. ESPN is there. Look for Wisconsin to take this one despite a modest Michigan effort.
-Illinois at Purdue
- Time/TV: 7PM ET — BTN
- Spread: Purdue (-13.5)
It isn’t likely, but his one could be interesting. Hear me out. Based on their respective last games, these teams are heading different directions. Illinois nearly pulled off an upset against Maryland on Saturday night, just narrowly losing 62-56. Meanwhile, Purdue lost their second game of the conference season—both defeats coming at the hands of teams that do not currently reside in the top hemisphere of the Big Ten.
Purdue is susceptible to letting a perimeter scoring have a field day against them. In their frustrating New Year’s Day loss to Minnesota, Nate Mason poured in 31 points.
Then, on Thursday night, Peter Jok dropped 29 to lead the Hawkeyes to a surprising victory in Iowa City. If the trio of Illinois guards Malcom Hill, Tracy Abrams and Jalen Coleman-Lands can find a way to get hot, Purdue could find themselves on the cusp of a third loss in which they were highly favored.