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2/22 Big Ten Preview: Purdue has a tuneup game against Illinois

What will happen in the Big Ten on Thursday?

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Purdue Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Intrigue. Drama. Excitement. These are just three of the words you won’t hear me use to describe Thursday’s slate of games.

With the Big Ten Tournament less than a week away, tonight’s conference clashes are like Dec. 23 in relation to Christmas — in that never has a day so close to something awesome been oh so meaningless.

Alas, you came here for a preview of the days games, and you know what, that’s exactly what you’ll get!

Big Ten Game of the Day

-No. 9 Purdue Boilermakers at Illinois Fighting Illini

  • Time/TV: 7:00PM ET - FS1
  • KenPom Spread: Purdue (-11)

Neither one of these teams has much to be playing for at this point of the season, outside of conference seeding, and that’s where the comparisons between Purdue and Illinois starts and stops.

For the Boilermakers, they enter this game fresh off a home win against Penn State. Isaac Haas and company celebrated their win over the Nittany Lions like they just won the damn NCAA Tournament. For years, the most esteemed bracketologist have wondered if defeating Penn State could elicit such a response, and the answer is yes, so long as your victory over the Lions is preceded by a 19 game winning streak turned three game losing streak.

Kidding aside, Purdue deserves some credit for the way it finally responded to the adversity of a once-promising season unraveling at the seems. And to fight through that without senior forward Vincent Edwards deserves at least a golf clap.

If any lingering worries still remain about Purdue’s chances of righting the ship, having its last two games of the regular season against Illinois and Minnesota won’t provide much clarity. They should, however, give Matt Painter two tuneup opportunities before the calendar turns to March where any new losing streak starts and stops at one.

Illinois, on the other hand, is locked into a Wednesday game at Madison Square Garden where a meeting with one of Minnesota, Iowa or Rutgers awaits the Fighting Illini.

Brad Underwood’s first season in Champaign has been a challenging one, with not many things to hang his hat on. A win over Purdue, no matter how low the steaks are for both teams, would be a nice way to put a period on an otherwise frustrating year.

So can Illinois do it? Nah.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Purdue

The Rest

-Wisconsin Badgers at Northwestern Wildcats

  • Time/TV: 7:00PM ET - ESPN2
  • KenPom Spread: Northwestern (-4)

I know it’s crazy to say, but the Wisconsin Badgers are currently one of the hottest teams in the Big Ten.

Winners of three of its last four games, Greg Gard is doing his best Bo Ryan impersonation as he has his team playing some quality basketball late in the year. If the deck shakes out the right way, and the Badgers avoid a stumble against Northwestern tonight, who knows, maybe they can steal a game at next week’s conference tournament?

For Northwestern, things have gone from bad, to worse, to apocalyptic for Chris Collins. After being on the wrong side of history for Michigan State’s epic comeback last weekend, the Wildcats followed that up with a home loss to Maryland.

Fortunately though, if they want to create any positive momentum heading into postseason play, games against Wisconsin and Iowa might just be the best way to make that happen.

Conventional wisdom says to ride the hot hand. But I’m thinking each teams luck starts to slowly change.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Northwestern

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Season Record vs KenPom’s Spread: 23-15-1