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1/25 Big Ten Preview: Illinois Looks To Keep It Rolling

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Illinois Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Two games on tap this afternoon in Big Ten play as Illinois and Rutgers look to further solidify themselves as conference title contenders. Let’s take a look at what to expect from each game.


Game of the Day

-No. 21 Illinois Fighting Illini at Michigan Wolverines

  • Time/TV: 12:00 PM EST, FS1
  • KenPom spread: Michigan (-3)

The Illini head to Ann Arbor in a huge game for both teams.

Illinois is looking to complete an impressive week with potential road wins over Purdue and Michigan, while the Wolverines stand at 2-5 in the conference and badly need a win, especially a quality win.

The Illini are coming off maybe their best game of the season in a 79-62 win at Purdue. The Illini exploded for 50 points in the second half, shot 43 percent as a team from three-point range, and out-rebounded the Boilermakers 37-19.

Michigan is trending in the opposite direction. The Wolverines are in the midst of a three-game losing streak and are coming off a disappointing home loss against Penn State, 72-63. Isaiah Livers appears to remain out with a groin injury suffered in late December. It will be interesting to see how Michigan responds at its lowest point of the season.

The keys to the game for the Wolverines today are that they need to limit second-chance opportunities for the Illini, limit turnovers that could allow for transition points, and shoot the three-ball well. Illinois needs to have Kofi Cockburn feast on everything in the paint, have Ayo Dosunmu continue his solid play (17.5 points per game and 6.2 assists per game over his last four), and expose a Michigan defense that is last in defensive efficiency in conference games.

This is a massive game and opportunity for Michigan today. Still, I see Illinois keeping pace with Michigan State and coming out of Ann Arbor with a 5-7 point win.

  • Pick against the spread: Illinois

The Rest

-Nebraska Cornhuskers at No. 24 Rutgers Scarlet Knights

  • Time/TV: 2:00 PM EST, BTN
  • KenPom Spread: Rutgers (-14)

Another team looking to keep up with the top of the conference is Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights almost pulled off an impressive road victory over Iowa earlier in the week, but couldn’t get stops down the stretch. They head back to the friendly confines of The RAC and face off against a Nebraska team that’s lost five out of its last six.

Even with Rutgers giving 14 today, I think the Scarlet Knights cover. They won in Lincoln by 17 a few weeks ago and Nebraska has even less momentum heading into the game today. Look for Rutgers to smother Nebraska on defense and get pretty much whatever they want on offense. Take Rutgers as they should easily move to 6-3 in conference play.

  • Pick against the spread: Rutgers