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2/6 Big Ten Preview: Wisconsin-Illinois Heads Saturday Action

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Game of the Day:

- No. 18 Wisconsin Badgers at No. 12 Illinois Fighting Illini

  • Time/TV: 2:30 p.m. EST (FOX)

The Badgers enter this one following back-to-back games split against Penn State. Illinois enters this one following five- and four-point wins over Iowa and Indiana respectively.

Typical of a Wisconsin squad, the Badgers have been impressive of late defensively. Wisconsin ranks seventh in the nation in defensive efficiency, and has held opponents to under 60 points in the past four victories. Offensively, they have been the standard performance Big Ten fans have come to expect (and often times dread excitement-wise).

Illinois had a rough stretch earlier in Big Ten action, but has rebounded more toward the expectations going into this season of late. Following big wins over the Hawkeyes and Hoosiers, Illinois is riding the two-headed behemoth duo of Auo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn to the extreme. Dosunmu is averaging 21.2 points per game and Cockburn 16.8. Meanwhile, Cockburn is also averaging 6.1 boards and 4.6 assists while Cockburn is averaging 10.2 rebounds per game.

Wisconsin needs to find a way to limit Cockburn in this one. While that may be a challenge, as a team the Badgers are more whole together at their best than Dosunmu and Cockburn have proven to be consistent it seems given the Illini struggles. It may be a bad idea to pick the road team in this one, but I give the slight edge to Wisconsin as a result. I wouldn’t bet a penny on that outcome, though.

  • Pick: Wisconsin

The Rest:

- Northwestern Wildcats at No. 24 Purdue Boilermakers

  • Time/TV: 4:30 p.m. EST (BTN)

The Wildcats had the week off coming into this one as NU was originally scheduled to play Michigan Wednesday after a 78-81 loss at Penn State last Saturday. Purdue comes into this one following a tough one-point loss at Maryland on Tuesday night.

The Boilermakers have been impressive of late, winning five of the last seven. Whereas Northwestern has lost eight straight following a jump to No. 19 in the rankings earlier this season. Boo Buie has been generally non-existent during the losing streak, scoring just two points twice and being held scoreless twice as well. Purdue, on the flip side, has been without Sasha Stefanovic for the last two and a half weeks due to COVID-19 protocols. He will be back for this one and the question is will the rust show.

Purdue seems to be pretty solidly in the NCAA tournament at this point, but it wouldn’t hurt to avoid a “bad loss” in this one. With a home game and a struggling Wildcats squad of late, they “should” be fine, but there is a reason the games are played and the 2020-21 season has been anything but “normal.”

  • Pick: Purdue

Nebraska Cornhuskers at Michigan State Spartans

  • Time/TV: 6:30 p.m. EST (BTN)

Nebraska makes a long awaited return to action after a 20-day break between games in the middle of the season. Michigan State, having a three-game losing streak the last time out against Nebraska in Lincoln, enters this home rematch with a four-game losing streak scattered across its own COVID-19 paused that saw an earlier return to action than the Huskers.

Nebraska, 0-5 in the Big Ten, is the only school behind Michigan State, 2-7, in the Big Ten standings at this point. The Spartans finally showed a pulse at Iowa Tuesday night after a lackluster blowout losses at Rutgers and Ohio State. The Huskers, meanwhile, struggled in practice with conditioning and rust according to coach Hoiberg. Just like the last time out for MSU, the Cornhuskers will likely be a needed break in a tough Big Ten slate to snap the losing skid and hit the reset button.

  • Pick: Michigan State