Game of the Day:
- No. 5 Illinois Fighting Illini at No. 23 Wisconsin Badgers
- Time/TV: 2:00 p.m. EST (ESPN)
The Fighting Illini sure benefited from Dosumnu’s triple-double performance earlier this month against the Badgers, but it is unclear he will be back after suffering a broken nose against the Spartans Tuesday. Wisconsin, meanwhile, continues to struggle against top competition in the Big Ten and badly needs a cold shooting top-tier opponent.
Illinois has been struggling from deep of late. Over the last two games, the Illini have shot just 9-for-40 from deep, good for 22.5 percent. They’ve shot over 40 percent from three just once in the last seven. Wisconsin could really benefit given they rank just seventh in the league for defensive field goal percentage.
Going to Illinoi’s advantage, though, is the team’s huge rebounding advantage in games. On the season Illinois currently ranks second in the Big Ten in both total rebounds (38.9 rpg) and in opponent rebounds, averaging a 7.2 board advantage over opponents in Big Ten play. Without Dosumnu, tough defense and staying strong on the boards will likely prove the decisive advantage over a Badgers team that is long, long overdue for a good performance against a top team that results in a win.
- Pick: Illinois
- No. 3 Michigan Wolverines at Indiana Hoosiers
- Time/TV: Noon EST (FOX)
The Wolverines are being forced to play two games in three days. Oh the inhumanity! While Nebraska, who had just one game more postponed than Michigan, continues to run an absurd gauntlet of games in the month of February, Michigan faces its one and only quick turnaround since returning. Heaven forbid the top of the conference be burdened by the Big Ten with a tough late season gauntlet despite no players having actually contracted COVID-19 like for Penn State, Michigan State, and Nebraska.
With that valid criticism out of the way, let’s take a look at the actual game on tap for today. The Hoosiers have dropped three of their last four games, though they did manage a double figure win over Minnesota in Bloomington. Expectations are few and far between at this point seemingly for the Hoosiers. With Archie Miller inching closer to hot seat and chopping block conversation among the Indiana fan-base, will the expectations lifted from the team be what it takes to pull off a stunning upset? If Indiana can get hot from deep and actually make its free throws, something the team excels at getting to the line to take, the Hoosiers might just shock everyone by handing Michigan their second loss in Big Ten play.
The Wolverines, meanwhile, are playing like one of the top teams in the country with a legitimate debate whether Gonzaga or Michigan should be considered number one because you can forget Baylor. The Wolverines are hitting most everything from the field and playing absolutely lock down defense. Despite the quick turnaround time, Michigan should have no issues in this one.
- Pick: Michigan
- Minnesota Golden Gophers at Nebraska Cornhuskers
- Time/TV: 7:00 p.m. EST (BTN)
The Golden Gophers come into this one on a four game losing streak while the Cornhuskers feature their own five game losing streak. One might be tempted to pick the Gophers in this one given the 18-point win over the Huskers on Feb. 8, but one should remember the overall records and results in games for both of these teams first.
Minnesota relies heavily on Marcus Carr as the senior accounts for 41 percent of the Gopher’s field goals or assists on field goals over the last three games, scoring 15 field goals and dishing 13 assists. However, Minnesota is an absolutely terrible team on the road. They’ve dropped all eight road games in conference play this season, only one of which was by single digits. The Gophers are 11-0 when they score 75 points, but average 64.6 on the road.
Some comfort for Minnesota, though, is the fact Nebraska’s conference opponents in all games have averaged 75.9 points against the Huskers, good for dead last in the Big Ten. Over the last seven games, opponents have even been averaging 78.1 points per game.
Nebraska on the other hand is playing on mostly dead legs late in the second half after the brutal stretch of games the Big Ten has forced on the team. Despite this, the team has had many points of late they have stayed competitive with opponents. Over the last three games, Nebraska has also averaged 76.6 possessions per game, good for first in the Big Ten.
With a growing crowd of Gophers fans starting to call for Pitino’s ousting and a Husker squad that still seems hungry for another win and refuses to go away, this game might be one of the last opportunities for Nebraska. Expect the players to show that.
- Pick: Nebraska