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Thursday Big Ten Preview: Three Top 15 Teams In Action

NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Rutgers Catalina Fragoso-USA TODAY Sports

There are three Big Ten games tonight spread out across three networks. Luckily for us all three games feature teams ranked in the top 15 and contending at the top of the Big Ten.

Game of the Night

Indiana Hoosiers at #8 Wisconsin Badgers

  • Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET (FS1)

In all honesty watching Iowa or Illinois is probably more enjoyable than watching a team like Wisconsin, but this game is the one that is most likely to be close and has the highest chance of a potential upset.

Indiana came alive in the second half against Maryland on Monday and managed to improve to 2-2 in the Big Ten. That’s big because they really could have been 0-4 after big tests from Penn State and Maryland. The Hoosiers are pretty straight forward as Trayce Jackson-Davis is an absolute stud and one of the best players in the league. After that Armaan Franklin has emerged in the backcourt as a viable option and a much needed three point shooter. Past that? A whole lot of nothing offensively on a team that struggles immensely shooting the ball.

That doesn’t fare well going up against a Badgers defense that is ranked by KenPom’s adjustive defensive efficiency ratings as a top five defense. And while their offense typically goes under the radar, they are also a top ten offense when rated for efficiency. I guess that makes sense with five players averaging double figures and four starters shooting at least 39% from three. The Badgers will also be well rested after their Penn State game was postponed, not playing since New Year’s Eve against Minnesota.

With this game taking place in Madison and Indiana being a top heavy team, Wisconsin should be able to improve to 4-1 tonight.

Pick: Wisconsin

The Rest

#5 Iowa Hawkeyes at Maryland Terrapins

  • Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET (ESPN2)

It’s been tough sledding for the Terrapins who are now 1-4 in conference play after losing at Indiana on Monday. At 1-4 and with Iowa up tonight, the Terps could really, really use a win tonight. Even more so when you realize they have road trips to Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota all coming up (with Nebraska mixed in there), followed by two home games against Wisconsin and Purdue.

Iowa hung on to win on the road at Rutgers last weekend and will look to improve to 4-1 to keep pace towards the top of a crowded conference race. They’ll face a Maryland team coming off of a dreadful 55 point performance against the Hoosiers that saw Aaron Wiggins score 22 and no one else get into much of a rhythm. Maryland has plenty of talent across the roster but has had some consistency issues with getting enough production from everyone. They will benefit from the return of Darryl Morsell, who is returning after surgery for a facial fracture.

This would be a good opportunity for Maryland to pick up a huge win to help stay afloat. The problem is they’re playing against one of the countries most efficient players (Luka Garza) and a highly efficient Iowa offense. Maryland will hang around but the Hawkeyes keep rolling.

Pick: Iowa

#12 Illinois Fighting Illini at Northwestern Wildcats

  • Time/TV: 9:00 PM ET (BTN)

In the late game tonight the Illini are looking to try to keep up with the Wolverines early in the race for first place in the conference. With one loss already (losing at Rutgers), the Illini have a relatively mild schedule coming up that should give Illinois a decent chance of building on their three game win streak. Up next is a road game at rival Northwestern.

The Wildcats surprised earlier this season but after back-to-back big losses to Iowa and Michigan there is some questioning if Northwestern is a legit contender or if they’re more likely to finish back towards where they were originally projected. Michigan State has shown to be a somewhat flawed team, and wins over Indiana and Ohio State were nice but each team appears to be somewhere in the middle of the pack.

Led by Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn, the Illini offense has impressed with 85.4 points per game and shooting 52.7% from the field. That offensive explosiveness will need to overcome some of their struggles on the road, but they should be more than capable of doing so here tonight. The Wildcats were bum rushed by the Wolverines and got blown out last time out and things won’t get any easier tonight.

Pick: Illinois