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3/1 Big Ten Preview: Michigan at Northwestern

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Wednesday night’s schedule features two games loaded with postseason implications.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Michigan vs Northwestern Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

After a three-game schedule on Tuesday night, the Big Ten gets back to work on Wednesday with two huge conference games.

The Big Ten Network will host the Wednesday night doubleheader, with Michigan heading to Evanston in the opener and Michigan State traveling to Champaign in the nightcap.

All four teams in action have hopes of hearing their names on Selection Sunday, but unfortunately, there is still work to be done in all cases.

By the time the final buzzer sounds on Wednesday night, we’ll have a much better idea of who will be in and who will be out of this years ‘Big Dance’.

You can preview both games below, with betting odds courtesy of Covers.com.

Game of the Night:

-Michigan Wolverines at Northwestern Wildcats

  • Time/TV: 7:00PM ET — BTN
  • Covers Spread: Northwestern (-1)

After beating Wisconsin, Northwestern seemed like a sure bet to make their first ever NCAA Tournament. Ever since, things have gone down hill as they dropped three of their next four games. Going forward, they should be in, but one more win would really solidify it.

On the flip side, Michigan has had the opposite performance. A month ago, they were a fringe tournament team at best. Now, they’ve won five of their last six games and have moved into the No. 27 spot in KenPom’s latest ratings. Like Northwestern, one more win should solidify them in the ‘Big Dance’.

The key here isn’t this game, it’s both team’s season finale. Michigan plays a manageable game at Nebraska to finish the season, while Northwestern has a very difficult game versus Purdue to wrap up the regular season. That tells me that the Wildcats will do anything possible to secure the win on Wednesday night.

Expect Welsh-Ryan Arena to be wild and Northwestern to feed off of the crowd. The ‘Cats are way overdue for a big win and conversely, Michigan is due for a let down game.

Take the home team laying the tiny number in this one. After all, this year in sports belongs to the city of Chicago.

This is the first meeting of the year between Michigan and Northwestern.

Neither team has any significant contributors on Wednesday’s injury report.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Northwestern

The Rest:

-Michigan State Spartans at Illinois Fighting Illini

  • Time/TV: 9:00PM ET — BTN
  • Covers Spread: Illinois (-1)

Don’t look now, but the Illini are back in the NCAA Tournament hunt.

Left for dead after dropping to 13-11 on February 4th, John Groce’s team has won three straight games and four of their last five. Their current record of 17-12 doesn’t put them on the bubble, but it does get them close. If they can win their final two games, they will be back in the thick of things heading into the Big Ten Tournament.

In their darkest times, talent was never the main concern for their poor play, it was overall effort. Now that the Illini are playing their tails off, they have the firepower to continue their improbable run.

Right now, it’s survive and advance for Illinois and their next test is a tough one.

Michigan State is coming to town and they’re just as hot as Illinois is. Tom Izzo’s team has won six of their last eight games, including wins over No. 21 Wisconsin and No. 27 Michigan. With that said, the Spartans are firmly in the ‘Big Dance’ at this point and a loss versus Illinois wouldn’t necessarily knock them out.

Desperation is a driving factor when it comes to crunch time, and right now, Illinois is definitely the more desperate team. Plus, Illinois will benefit from playing in front of a raucous home crowd on Wednesday night. You can expect the ‘Orange Krush’ to be a factor in this game, giving Malcolm Hill and company the extra boost they need to beat Michigan State.

We’re taking both home teams on Wednesday night, laying one point in each.

This is the first meeting of the year between Michigan State and Illinois.

It will be the Spartans third game without senior leader Eron Harris who is out for the year with an injury. The Fighting Illini are at full strength for Wednesday’s game.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Illinois

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Casey’s Record vs The Spread: 40-26-1