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1/11 Big Ten Preview: Rutgers Battles Illinois For Second Place In The Big Ten

Yes, you read that right.

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

“Separation” is the name of the game today in the Big Ten with its four games around the conference. The conference has seven teams who are 3-2 or 2-2, and many of these teams are looking for an early separation point.

Game of the Day:

-Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Illinois Fighting Illini

  • Time/TV: 12:00 PM EST, BTN
  • KenPom Spread: Illinois (-4)

Let’s do this!

Not sure anyone would have predicted these two schools playing for second place in the Big Ten after five conference games, but here we are. It speaks to the strength and depth of the league that these two schools are off to such a great start and competing towards the top tier of the Big Ten.

Expect a rock fight in this one. Both teams are near mirror images of one another - so-so offensively, good defensively, bad at three-point shooting, but good on the offensive glass.

Home teams in the Big Ten have dominated so far, so I am going to stick with the Illini to win and to grab sole possession of second place for now.

  • Pick against the spread: Illinois

The Rest:

-No. 11 Ohio State Buckeyes at Indiana Hoosiers

  • Time/TV: 12:00 PM EST, FOX
  • KenPom Spread: Ohio State (-3)

This is a massive game for Ohio State. The Buckeyes have lost three-in-a-row and are staring at a 1-4 conference play start if they cannot get out of Assembly Hall without a win today.

Indiana has been only slightly better over their last three games. The only difference is that Indiana went on a 26-12 run over the last 12 minutes of play to squeak past Northwestern earlier in the week.

Both teams are really struggling on the offensive end. It is a little more confounding for Ohio State given their ability to stretch the floor and pound it inside with Kaleb Wesson. But the flu and an injury to Kyle Young have put the offense to a standstill. The Buckeyes haven’t topped over 70 points since they beat Kentucky three weeks ago.

I think the Buckeyes breakthrough today. Indiana hasn’t been its normal daunting self at Assembly Hall, and Ohio State has the bigs to neutralize Indiana’s biggest strength.

  • Pick against the spread: Ohio State

-Wisconsin Badgers at No. 20 Penn State Nittany Lions

  • Time/TV: 2:15 PM EST, BTN
  • KenPom Spread: Penn State (-4)

Another set of teams looking for a little bit of separation from the large middle pack of teams in the conference standings.

Both teams are coming off losses as Wisconsin dropped a close home loss to Illinois and Penn State lost to Rutgers on the road.

A key to watch in this game is frontcourt play. Can Wisconsin, on the road, body up to the Lamar Stevens-Mike Watkins frontline. Badger frontcourt play has been hit-or-miss all season, but with Micah Potter now playing and scoring 13 points against Illinois maybe it is starting to turn around.

Going to stick with the home team in this one. Think Penn State bounces back with a double-digit victory at home this afternoon.

  • Pick against the spread: Penn State

-Nebraska Cornhuskers at Northwestern Wildcats

  • Time/TV: 4:30 PM EST, BTN
  • KenPom Spread: Northwestern (-6)

Two teams projected to be towards the bottom of the Big Ten have shown some life in the early part of conference play.

Nebraska is off to a solid 2-2 start after a nice home win over Iowa, while Northwestern can build off 32 minutes of dominating play against Indiana on the road.

I think the pace of play will be critical in this matchup. If Nebraska can get out in transition and tally up plenty of fast break points, look for a Cornhusker victory. But if Northwestern can force the Cornhuskers into long halfcourt possessions the Wildcats might come away with its first win in conference play.

I’m taking Nebraska. I still think Northwestern could come out with the overall win, but I think the Cornhuskers keep it close throughout the game.

  • Pick against the spread: Nebraska