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1/10 Big Ten Preview: Illinois Hosts Michigan

Preview the Big Ten’s slate for Thursday.

NCAA Basketball: Indiana at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten will have a lighter slate on the docket for Thursday, but fans will still get the chance to see two significant games. Michigan will travel to Illinois and Penn State will travel to Nebraska. Expect two hard fought contests.

Let’s take a look at today’s Big Ten action.

Game of the Day:

-No. 2 Michigan Wolverines at Illinois Fighting Illini

  • Time/TV: 8:00PM ET (FS1)
  • KenPom Spread: Michigan (-10)

Any time a highly ranked team goes on the road in conference play, it’s going to garner some attention. And when you add in that Michigan enters this game as one of only two remaining undefeated teams, it gets even more intriguing.

By any measure, this is a game Michigan should win. The Wolverines are a better team than the Illini and are 15-0 on the season. KenPom likes Michigan and I’m genuinely not sure if a single Illinois play would crack Michigan’s lineup. Ayo Dosunmu and Trent Frazier have shown flashes, but Michigan is absolutely loaded.

However, Michigan has shown some cracks over the last few weeks. The Wolverines let underwhelming South Carolina and Western Michigan teams hang around in December and had some uncomfortable moments against Penn State and Indiana as well. This is also Michigan’s first true road game since barely holding off Northwestern in early December.

For Illinois, this is an opportunity to get a marquee win for Brad Underwood and some positivity around the program. And the Illini have been playing better over the last few weeks. Despite losing the team’s last four games, Illinois has been competitive in every contest. This is the chance to turn that improvement into a win.

This game is going to be decided on what Giorgi Bezhanishvili can do inside. Michigan has gotten burned by poor defensive post play as of late. If Bezhanishvili can come out with a big performance, things could get interesting.

  • Pick Against the Spread: Michigan

The Rest:

-Penn State Nittany Lions at Nebraska Cornhuskers

  • Time/TV: 9:00PM ET (ESPN2)
  • KenPom Spread: Nebraska (-10)

After falling on the road to Maryland and Iowa last week, Nebraska will finally return home to face Penn State. This is an opportunity for the Huskers to get back on track against what looks like a beatable opponent.

On the other side, Penn State is just looking to get some positive momentum. The Nittany Lions are 7-8 overall and haven’t beaten a top 175 team. Pat Chambers also came under some fire for how he treated one of his players on the sideline. Pulling off a road upset on Thursday night won’t be easy, but Chambers will try and get it done.

This game is going to be decided by Nebraska’s guards. If they can get to the hoop and convert, it’s hard to imagine Penn State winning this thing. It will be up to Josh Reaves and Mike Watkins to make things difficult on the Huskers.

  • Pick Against the Spread: Nebraska

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Season Record vs KenPom’s Spread: 41-32-2