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11/17 Big Ten Preview: Penn State, Illinois look to stay perfect

A mild Friday slate features the undefeated Nittany Lions and Fighting Illini.

NCAA Basketball: Montana at Penn State Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a bulky Thursday night of Big Ten games, the quantity of match-ups tapers off this evening. That is not to say the two games being played tonight lack any sort of quality. In fact, we may see two hotly contested contests in this duo.

Both Penn State and Illinois come into Friday night undefeated on the season. For two teams that were ranked in the lower half of the Big Ten to start the season, respective perfect starts provide some tremendous momentum.

On paper, the Nittany Lions have the higher probability of remaining unblemished by the time the night wraps up. The Illini are surely in for a battle, however.

Game of the Night

DePaul Blue Demons at Illinois Fighting Illini

  • Time/TV: 8:30 ET - BTN
  • KenPom Spread: Illinois (-5)

Illinois looked unbeatable in their opening game against Southern, winning 102-55. However, they were tested by Tennessee-Martin, only taking that game by three. The contention in that game had much to do with the Skyhawks 39 percent three-point percentage to the Illini’s 29 percent. Never the less, they did show cracks.

DePaul comes into this game ranked 127th in KenPom, compared to Illinois at 104. With a record at 1-1, the Blue Demons fell to 14th ranked Notre Dame in their opening game. They then proceeded to beat up on Delaware State en route to their first victory.

DePaul is led by senior forward Tre’Darius McCallum and junior guard Max Strus. McCallum leads the team in scoring (15.5) and is second in rebounds (6) per game. A few sticking points for the Blue Demons so far in 2017-’18 is poor three-point shooting. In two games, they are only shooting 24 percent from deep as a team. On top of that, their 11 team assists per game is terribly low for a Big East team.

On the other side, Illinois has been paced so far by Leron Black and Michael Finke. Much like DePaul, Illinois has shot a very low percentage from three-point range as well. We may see a battle in the paint come tonight.

Pick Against the Spread: DePaul

The Rest

Columbia Lions at Penn State Nittany Lions

  • Time/TV: 7:00 ET - BTN2Go
  • KenPom Spread: Penn State (-17)

Their games may have been mismatches, by KenPom standards, but the Nittany Lions have looked sharp to begin the season. Tony Carr looks dominant to start, averaging 20 points, five assists, and five rebounds per game so far. To compliment Carr, both Lamar Stevens and Josh Reaves are averaging over 14 points and six rebounds per contest. It is no secret that Penn State is quite youthful and athletic, and they have shown that early on. Whether their success translates into the Big Ten season will be interesting to see.

Columbia opened their season by hanging around with number six ranked Villanova, ultimately losing by 15. They have since won at Longwood, 87-77. Quinton Adlesh and Mike Smith are the two players to watch for the Lions. Adlesh is scorching the net in 2017-’18, shooting 57 percent from the field and 54 percent from three. As for Mike Smith, he is averaging nearly 21 points per game. The Lions as a team have shot an incredibly efficient 45 percent from the field so far this season.

Ranked 43rd in KenPom, the Nittany Lions are heavily favored over 196th ranked Lions. Perhaps the spread is somewhat warranted, as Penn State is the better team. However, Columbia could give them a run if they continue to shoot well from the field.

Pick Against the Spread: Columbia