What is essentially finals week for a number of schools in the Big Ten leaves another light slate of games tonight. However, the start of conference action continues with Minnesota taking on Illinois in Champaign. Wisconsin also has a replacement game against Loyola Chicago after Northern Iowa had to cancel.
Game of the Day:
-Minnesota Golden Gophers at No. 13 Illinois Fighting Illini
- Time/TV: 7:00 PM EST (ESPN2)
The 6-0 Golden Gophers come into their Big Ten season opener with a few question marks due to injuries, along with a less than stunning resume of wins to date. Tre Williams is expected to play, but did leave the game against Kansas City last Thursday with a contusion. Brandon Johnson hurt his ankle against Boston College and is considered day to day. This is also Minnesota’s first trip outside of Williams Arena this season.
Minnesota is led by Marcus Carr in scoring (23.8 points per game) and assists (6.0 per game), while junior big man Liam Robbins (12.5 points per game, 7.7 rebounds) will be tested against Cockburn. Robbins, a transfer to Minnesota, will be in his first Big Ten game, as well guard Both Gach who is second in scoring with 15.3 points per game.
Illinois will likely be hungry for a rebound following the upset loss to Missouri. While the Illini got a big win at Duke in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge last week, they have lost two of their last three. The Illini struggled offensively against Missouri as it relied too heavily on Dosunmu. Despite him scoring 36 points, the imbalance of scoring needs addressed.
Illinois has the talent here to overpower Minnesota in all facets of the game, and get that flow back as they enter conference play hoping to claim their first title since 2005. With Carr versus Dosunmu and Robbins versus Cockburn, though should still make for an exciting game. However, expect Illinois to cruise.
- Pick: Illinois
-Loyola Chicago at No. 12 Wisconsin Badgers
- Time/TV: 8:00 PM EST (BTN)
The Badgers managed to find a quick replacement for Northern Iowa this week. The Loyola Chicago Ramblers enter this game 3-0 with wins over Lewis, Chicago State, and Illinois-Chicago. Center Carmeron Krutwig leads in scoring with 17.3 points per game and is averaging a team high 2 blocks. Forward Aher Uguak is the leading rebounder with 6.3 boards. Overall, the offensive burden is relatively spread out among the roster as the team is averaging 80.3 points per game and nine players are averaging at least five points. Just one other player, guard Tate Hall, is averaging double-digit scoring with 11 points per game.
Having said that, this is not the 2018 Final Four Loyola team. Their season to date does not feature a team in the same ballpark as Wisconsin. Even for a team that has a slow offensive pace like the Badgers should put this game away easily by the mid-point of the second half. The only possible concern might be if the Wisconsin players are caught looking ahead to Louisville on Saturday, but seems unlikely. Wisconsin should roll.
- Pick: Wisconsin