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12/20 Big Ten Preview: Illinois and Rutgers Face Off

Preview all of Sunday’s Big Ten action.

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

The Big Ten has a loaded slate on Sunday, featuring a ranked matchup between Illinois and Rutgers. The league will also get two more interesting games with Michigan State traveling to face Northwestern and Minnesota hosting Saint Louis.

Let’s take a look at the schedule.

Game of the Day:

-No. 13 Illinois Fighting Illini at No. 19 Rutgers Scarlet Knights

  • Time/TV: 1:00PM ET (ESPN2)
  • KenPom Spread: Rutgers by 1

Big Ten conference play started last Sunday, but this feels like the first true blockbuster matchup of the season. A top 15 Illinois team will go on the road to face an undefeated and ranked Rutgers squad. On paper, things look dead even. Expect an absolutely battle between the two sides on Sunday afternoon.

For Illinois, this one is going to be about getting more from the team’s bench. The Illini absolutely rolled Minnesota earlier this week, thanks in large part to players like Trent Frazier and Adam Miller. Can those two hold up against Rutgers’ defense? Moreover, how does Kofi Cockburn perform against a tough frontcourt?

On the other side, Rutgers will be hoping for another big night from Ron Harper and solid defensive play elsewhere. This feels like a game that’s going to get decided by effort plays. Whoever does better in transition, on the boards, and with loose balls probably comes out on top. And that’s good news for Rutgers, who thrives on that style.

Either way, expect an absolute battle. And whichever team comes out on top will have to be in the conference title discussion for at least the foreseeable future.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Rutgers

The Rest:

-No. 4 Michigan State Spartans at Northwestern Wildcats

  • Time/TV: 8:30 PM ET (BTN)
  • KenPom Spread: Michigan State by 4

This game might look a little underwhelming, but there are a few intriguing storylines. To start, can Michigan State keep its high level of play going? The Spartans are 6-0 on the season and have won most of the team’s games by double-digits. However, Michigan State will now have to go on the road in Big Ten play. That’s always a different challenge.

And for Northwestern, this is a chance to make a statement and show the team has improved on last season. The matchup to watch here will be in transition. Can the Wildcats come up with enough plays from Boo Buie and Chase Audige to slow down the Spartans? If not, it could be a long evening.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Michigan State

-Saint Louis Billikens at Minnesota Golden Gophers

  • Time/TV: 8:30 PM ET (FS1)
  • KenPom Spread: Saint Louis by 2

After getting dismantled by Illinois on Tuesday, Minnesota is hoping to bounce back at home against a really good Saint Louis team on Sunday. Unfortunately for Gopher fans, it won’t be easy. Saint Louis has an awesome wing group that’s going to make things difficult for Minnesota. Jordan Goodwin and Javonte Perkins are both senior wings who know how to play at a high level. Botch Gach and Brandon Johnson will have their hands full.

Ultimately, this game is going to be decided by Minnesota’s role players. If the Gophers can get enough around Marcus Carr, they have a decent shot to pull out a win.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Minnesota

***

Record Against The Spread: 11-7-2