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1/31 Big Ten Preview: Wisconsin and Maryland look to keep rolling

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Will one of the conference’s top teams fall on the road?

NCAA Basketball: Maryland at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Big Ten basketball returns tonight with a three-game slate that includes the two teams tied atop the conference hitting the road.

Maryland are winners of its last six games, as the last defeat for the Terrapins came in a 67-65 squeaker on New Years Day to Nebraska. The Terrapins stride into Columbus with its freshly awarded No. 17 AP Poll ranking and look to extend their winning streak against Ohio State.

Wisconsin stumbled through Saturday’s contest against Rutgers at Madison Square Garden, just narrowly defeating the last place Scarlet Knights in overtime 61-54. The Badgers have rattled off wins in the 10 of their last 11 games heading into Champaign.

Ironically, the game projected by Vegas to be the closest is possibly the game that least sticks out on tonight’s slate. Iowa travels to Rutgers for a clash between teams sporting identical overall records. The two teams are a combined 3-7 in their last 10 games.

All spreads are courtesy of Covers.com.

Big Ten Game of the Day:

-Maryland at Ohio State

  • Time/TV: 7:00PM ET — ESPN
  • Spread: Ohio State (-1)

Somehow, Maryland are the underdogs tonight in Columbus. Not to say that the Buckeyes can’t pull it off—because they can—but it is peculiar for a team playing as well as the Terrapins not to be favored.

And it’s not like Ohio State has been particularly tough at home, either. The Buckeyes are 2-2 at Value City Arena in conference play, but come into tonight in the midst of their “hottest” stretch of the conference season, securing wins in three of their last five contests.

Maryland is 5-0 in Big Ten road games this season. The team’s freshmen have not wavered in opposing arenas, as the trio of Justin Jackson, Kevin Huerter and Anthony Cowan Jr. have combined for 35.6 points, 8.4 assists and 15.6 in Maryland’s five conference road wins.

For a moment there, it looked like something clicked for Ohio State. Dating back to Jan. 15, the Buckeyes won three of four games, including quality wins over Michigan State and Minnesota as well as a surprisingly narrow 74-72 loss to Northwestern. Then, they lost to a Peter Jok-less Iowa team by double digits on Saturday and virtually erased hope among the OSU faithful.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Maryland

The Rest:

-Wisconsin at Illinois

  • Time/TV: 9:00PM ET — BTN
  • Spread: Illinois (+6)

Wisconsin is an incredibly talented team and most likely the team to beat in the Big Ten. However, as of late, Greg Gard’s bunch have displayed symptoms of the highly feared only-show-up-for-big-games illness.

As alluded to above, Rutgers took Wisconsin to overtime on Saturday. Luckily for the Badgers, Ethan Happ’s 32 points were enough to hoist his team into the win column and avoid a head-scratching defeat at The Garden.

But, that isn’t the only instance of Wisconsin’s mediocrity against lowly teams. Last week against Penn State, the Badgers entered their home locker room only leading the game by three points before pouring it on in the second half. Also, two dangerously narrow wins over Michigan and Minnesota this month are inconclusive but heighten the possibility of a diagnosis.

On the other side, Illinois should come into this game with guns blazing. The team is barely hanging onto its NCAA hoops, but a win at their home arena against an opponent like Wisconsin could at least bring a smile to the Fighting Illini—even if it is short lived.

All eyes in orange and blue are on Illinois guard Malcom Hill. Hill, averaging 17.5 points to lead the team, has been the lone bright spot for Illinois thus far. Being that it is his senior season, it may be his last chance to notch a marquee win in front of the Orange Crush student section.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Wisconsin

-Iowa at Rutgers

  • Time/TV: 7:00PM ET -- BTN
  • Spread: Rutgers (+1)

This game could be close, but prior to a potential seesaw affair in the closing minutes, this one won’t be easy on the eyes. ESPN doesn’t have a game preview on its app for the game, for crying out loud. Hell, Peter Jok may not even play.

On the bright side, the Rutgers backcourt duo of Corey Sanders and Nigel Johnson can be fun to watch—especially when they are hot. These two guys get their money worth every time they take the court, consistently accounting for half of the team’s shots. Sanders leads the team with 12.6, followed by Johnson’s 11.5.

On a closing note—for you gamblers—look for the line to change according to Peter Jok’s availability.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Rutgers