Game of the Day:
- No. 5 Illinois Fighting Illini at Michigan State Spartans
- Time/TV: 7:00 p.m. EST (FS1)
The Fighting Illini look to build momentum from a blowout road win over the Golden Gophers after a string of shaky road performances. The Spartans are seeing long shot signs of salvaging the NCAA tournament streak that was deemed past life support just a week ago following the road loss to Purdue until a close win over Indiana on the road Sunday showed a faint pulse again.
Illinois is sitting on its best Big Ten record, currently 12-3, since 2005, the last year they made the Final Four. Ayo Dosunmu has been absolutely vital in the string of road games of late for the Illini and will prove a challenge for the Spartans defensively. However, with the lack of a go to center for MSU, expect Kofi Cockburn to also have a stellar performance in this one.
The Spartans, meanwhile, understand an upset of a top five Illini squad would breathe an incredible burst of life into the vague hope of a NCAA tournament bid as “Selection Sunday” looms on the not at all distant anymore horizon. Aaron Henry has been performing stellar of late for Michigan State, including a season high 27 points against Indiana Saturday. One should expect the Spartan squad to come out with everything they can muster in this one with what is on the line.
The Illini are playing great basketball of late, though. They have the talent and cohesion advantage at this point and should see another victory at the closing buzzer.
- Pick: Illinois
- Time/TV: 7:00 p.m. EST (BTN)
The Cornhuskers notched their first conference win in 13 months on the road against Penn State just over a week ago in Happy Valley. Penn State, meanwhile, is coming off a tough fought loss to No. 9 Iowa Sunday and a closer than the final score suggested loss to No. 4 Ohio State last Thursday. Regardless of the “almost had them losses,” Penn State comes into this one on a four game losing streak and Nebraska a three game losing streak.
The Nittany Lions have to have revenge on their mind entering this matchup. The Huskers led by as much as 11 at one point in the second half and controlled much of the game leading up to that lead. Tired legs seemed to doom the Huskers to yet another loss, but the Nittany Lions managed just 32 percent shooting in the matchup. With the frustration of losses mounting for a feisty PSU squad and a still fatigued Husker squad, it would be surprising to see Penn State shoot as poorly this time around despite the road matchup.
Nebraska, on the other hand, continues to show an admirable fight despite the team’s 1-12 Big Ten record at this point. Against Purdue Saturday, the Huskers held a three point lead with just over 13 minutes left in the game. However, the brutal schedule making up postponed games was extra evident as Purdue went on a 19-4 run and finished the game 75-58. Nebraska continues to at times show spark and prove to be a dangerous foe if fatigue doesn’t set in too much.
Despite the win the first time around and the road game for Penn State in game two, the Nittany Lions should have enough in them to leave Lincoln with the revenge win this time around. It will be a close one, though, as Penn State has just a 68.3 percent nod by ESPN for the win.
- Pick: Penn State