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12/2 Big Ten Preview: Illini Hosts Miami (FL)

Preview all the Big Ten’s action on Monday night.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Arizona Jacob Snow-USA TODAY Sports

Monday marks the opening of the 2019 Big Ten - ACC Challenge, the 21st time the two conferences have matched up for the annual challenge. The ACC leads the overall series with a 12-5-3 record. However, the Big Ten has gone 5-2-3 since 2009.

Game of the Day

- Miami Hurricanes @ Illinois Fighting Illini

  • Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET (ESPN2)
  • KenPom Spread: Illinois -8
  • Vegas Spread: Illinois -8

This is the first game of the season for Illinois that the outcome isn’t basically decided before tipoff even occurs. The Illini enter this game at 6-1 with their only loss coming against No. 14 Arizona. While Illinois looked good in the first half of that one, the Wildcats pulled away after the intermission, making the final score not necessarily indicative of what kind of game it was.

Since the loss, the Illini have blown out their opponents. They’ve shown that their offense can really put points on the board, ranking 3rd in the country in points per game. This scoring is fueled by shooting 51% from the field which is 9th in the country. The Illini are led in scoring by superstar Ayo Dosunmu who is averaging 16.3 ppg along with 3.4 apg. Freshman center Kofi Cockburn has made the transition to college seem simple by putting up 15.3 ppg and 12.0 rpg. The pleasant surprise of the young season has been Andres Feliz taking the next step as a facilitator thus far. After averaging just around 8 points per game last year, he’s averaging 15.3 ppg as well as leading the team with 4.4 apg.

The Hurricanes have endured a tough 2019 so far, entering Monday’s matchup with a 4-3 record. Their defense has been really bad so far with most defensive metrics ranking in the bottom half of the nation, including opponents’ points per game and shooting percentage, field goal attempts, and offensive rebounds allowed. Dejan Vasiljevic is Miami’s biggest threat on offense, averaging 13.9 ppg while shooting a red-hot 44% from three on almost 6 three-point attempts per game.

Illinois is the better team in this matchup and should win this one, covering the spread. The Illini haven’t had a competitive game in a while and may struggle with the physicality at first. Once they adjust to the style of play, expect them to pull away, especially if they can keep Vasiljevic from getting hot.

  • Pick ATS: Illinois

The Rest:

- Clemson Tigers @ Minnesota Golden Gophers

  • Time/TV: 9:00 PM ET (ESPN2)
  • KenPom Spread: Minnesota -3
  • Vegas Spread: Minnesota -3

Both teams enter Monday night’s matchup after suffering close losses to really good teams. Minnesota lost to DePaul 68-73 on Friday night while Clemson lost to Colorado 67-71 on Tuesday. Minnesota has played a tough schedule so far, evidenced by their 4-3 record, and have won the games they’re supposed while also losing the games they’re expected to.

This season was expected to be somewhat of a transition year for the Gophers. Sophomores Daniel Oturu and Marcus Carr have flashed some promise for the future, averaging 17.9 and 13.0 ppg, respectively. However, the team has struggled to find its identity, ranking in the middle of the pack nationally in essentially every statistic.

Meanwhile, Clemson has established a well-rounded offense featuring four players averaging in double figures scoring. Tevin Mack, a 6’6” guard, is the straw that stir’s the drink offensively, averaging 15.4 ppg on 41.9% shooting from three and 65.7% from inside the arc. This efficiency has allowed guys like Aamir Simms and John Newman III to score with less pressure.

The Tigers don’t employ a prototypical center, offense featuring a lineup with five guys under 6’8”. The question in this matchup is whether Clemson can slow down Daniel Oturu on offense while remaining undersized in the frontcourt. However, the Tigers’ defense has been stout so far, with their opponents shooting only 37.5% from the field. I expect Clemson’s sharpshooting to be the ultimate edge in this one. Minnesota has had a rough go of things so far this season and that could continue on Monday.

  • Pick ATS: Clemson +3