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1/29 Big Ten Preview: Illinois vs Iowa

Preview all of Friday’s Big Ten action.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten might only have one game on the slate on Friday night, but it’s a massive one between Illinois and Iowa in Champaign. The game should have massive Big Ten title implications and could set the plate for quite a battle in February and March.

Let’s take a look at the schedule.

Game of the Day:

-No. 7 Iowa Hawkeyes at No. 19 Illinois Fighting Illini

  • Time/TV: 9:00PM ET (FS1)
  • KenPom Spread: Illinois by 1

This is what we’ve been waiting for. When the NBA Draft deadline passed last summer and we learned the league would be welcoming back three of its biggest stars in Luka Garza, Ayo Dosunmu, and Kofi Cockburn, this date got circled on the calendar—ok, we didn’t know the actual date because of COVID-19, but you get the point. This is the matchup we’ve been waiting to see since we got that news.

The implications here might not be as big as we initially hoped for (an outright Big Ten title, perhaps a one or two seed in March), but there’s still a lot riding on this outcome. Iowa is just a game out of first place in the Big Ten standings and Illinois is only one loss behind the Hawkeyes. Whoever wins on Friday should be viewed as Michigan’s top threat for the regular season Big Ten crown.

Both teams are also pushing for elite seeding in March. ESPN currently has Iowa as a two seed and Illinois as a four seed. Obviously, a win on Friday would go a long way toward helping one team’s resume and build some serious momentum going into the most important stretch of the season.

From an on-court perspective, the battle to watch is going to be down low between Cockburn and Garza. Both are serious NBA prospects and had quite the two battles last season, though Garza had the upper hand with a combined 53 points in Iowa’s two games against Illinois. Expect Cockburn to be highly motivated to prevent a similar showing on Friday. If he’s able to control Garza, Illinois should be able to come out on top.

The other spot that’s going to be really interesting is on the wing and with the various role players on the floor. Things will likely go back and forth upfront and players like Jordan Bohannon and Ayo Dosunmu will get theirs, but how do guys like Adam Miller and Keegan Murray perform? Both are quietly important players for the two teams. Miller is arguably Illinois’ most important guy outside the arc and Murray does work on the boards. Keep an eye on those two to see who comes out on top.

Overall, this game could go either way. However, I’m going with Iowa here as I think the Hawkeyes are going to be highly motivated to bounce back from the team’s recent struggles against Indiana.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Iowa

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Record Against The Spread: 18-14-2