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2/8 Big Ten Preview: A game of basketball will indeed be played between Wisconsin and Illinois

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There aren’t a ton of ways to jazz this one up, but hey, basketball!

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

If you thought last Thursday’s slobberknocker between Wisconsin and Northwestern was chock-full of intrigue and excitement, well boy do I have some good news for you!

That’s because the Badgers are back in action tonight against the Land of Lincoln’s public institution in what could be a preview of the 12 vs 13 seed game at the Big Ten Tournament.

And if that wasn’t enough to warrant your attention, the stakes of this game couldn’t be higher for the Badgers and Illini as the winner will have a leg up on earning the right to dress as the home team for any potential tournament clash.

Removing my tongue from the inside of my cheek and drying the sarcasm off those first three paragraphs, keep in mind that some basketball is better than no basketball at all.

In fact, putting a little spin on it, you could sell this as an intriguing matchup.

Don’t believe me? I’ll prove it.

Big Ten Game of the Day

-Wisconsin Badgers at Illinois Fighting Illini

  • Time/TV: 9:00PM ET - BTN
  • KenPom Spread: Illinois (-4)

Thursday’s game between Illinois and Wisconsin pits two teams that are separated by just one spot on the KenPom rankings. Granted, they slot in as the 94th and 95th teams, respectively, but still, a matchup between such closely rated opponents should make for a competitive contest.

Wisconsin enters on the heels of a five game losing streak and owners of a 3-9 conference record. In its 12 Big Ten games to date, the Badgers have managed to score 75-points or more only one time, a stat that goes a long way in explaining the programs sub-100 offensive efficiency rating.

Ready for some more of that spin though? Wisconsin’s last Big Ten win just happens to be over the very same Illini it’ll matchup with Thursday evening. And wouldn’t-you-know-it, that game, which took place just a little less than a month ago, was the one aberration where the Badgers managed to hit the 75-point mark.

And not only did they cross that seemingly unobtainable threshold, but they managed to hold Illinois to 50 points in a dismantling of the Illini in Madison.

So there’s hope for the Fightin’ Greg Gard’s in this one!

As for the Illini, they come into Thursday’s tilt winners of two of its last three, with victories at home over Indiana and Rutgers. That’s a stark turnaround for a squad that at one point were losers of eight straight conference games.

It’s not a coincidence that its two conference wins came at home, as the Illini are 11-3 in games played in Champaign but a woeful 0-8 when taking the show on the road.

What bodes well for Illini coach Brad Underwood in this one is that Wisconsin sports an almost as bad 1-8 record when playing away from America’s Dairyland, with that lone victory coming in an early December game at Penn State.

With all that said, how do I think Thursday’s game will shake out?

Well last time I checked this game is being played at the State Farm Center. And the Illini do own that slightly better KenPom ranking.

Hmmm.

Go ahead and pack those home whites for New York fellas, you might need ‘em.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Illinois

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Season Record vs KenPom’s Spread: 22-13-1