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3/2 Big Ten Preview: Top-5 Showdown Looms Large in Ann Arbor

No. 4 Illinois-No. 2 Michigan, Indiana-Michigan State, and No. 25 Wisconsin-No. 23 Purdue tees up monster Tuesday night slate

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Wow has just the second day of March set up a monster slate of Big Ten action for hoops fans.

Game of the Day:

- No. 5 Illinois Fighting Illini at No. 2 Michigan Wolverines

  • Time/TV: 7:00 p.m. EST (ESPN)

With the regular season title essentially all but wrapped up at this point, the battle between the conference’s two top teams hardly lacks much luster from the anticipation. However, the Illini’s questionable status of Dosunmu returning to the court does in fact drag a bit on competitive balance for fans wanting a top showdown. That wouldn’t be a problem had Michigan unnecessarily postponed the game from a few weeks ago.

Regardless, the Wolverines should win this one on their home court handily. Michigan is playing elite basketball, and has six wins in seven tries over ranked opponents compared to Illinois’s four wins and three losses. At home, the Wolverines have won 12 straight and averaged 81.3 points while holding opponents to just 63.8. Michigan has also been holding opponents on the season to just 38.4 percent from the field, the stingiest in the entire NCAA DI field.

Illinois relies heavily on Dosunmu and his 21.1 points, six rebounds, and 5.1 assists per game. Cockburn’s 17.7 points and 9.9 boards pair well with the two’s pick and roll dynamic, but will rely on Dosunmu to continue it in an effort to hand Michigan just its second loss on the season. While the team managed just fine without him against Nebraska and Wisconsin, neither is the level of Michigan on their home court.

This one should be close through most of the game, if Dosunmu is back and plays to full strength, but Michigan should pull ahead late and ice at a minimum a share of the team’s first title since 2014 and Juwan Howard’s first in any capacity.

  • Pick: Michigan

The Rest:

- Indiana Hoosiers at Michigan State Spartans

  • Time/TV: 8:00 p.m. EST (BTN)

The Hoosiers and Spartans are both essentially on life support in terms of NCAA tournament hopes at this point. Michigan State sure turned things around last week with back-to-back wins over top-5 teams following a road win at Indiana, but a blowout loss at Maryland Sunday sent them sinking right back to most projections of “last 4 out.” Meanwhile, Archie Miller’s seat is getting warm, if not outright hot, among Hoosiers fans as Indiana is still trying to find a way to finish out the NCAA tourney resume for the first time in his tenure.

On the road Sunday at Maryland, the Spartans exhausted legs faced a ferocious and well rested Terps defense with horrible shooting on offense at one end, and then a Terps squad they sank off of to allow a stunning offensive shooting display on defense. With just one day off since, it does not bode well for Michigan State tonight.

The Hoosiers, meanwhile, continue to ride Trayce Jackson-Davis hard on the offensive end. Over the last four of give games, he has scored at least 20 points for the Hoosiers. Armaan Franklin is questionable still, but could end up seeing the floor. Al Durham has also scored 15 or more in three of the last four games for Indiana.

This game should be interesting between two programs desperate for needed wins in the final stretch for their NCAA resume. It should likely come down to the wire unless the Spartans have the same tired leg shooting woes suffered in College Park Sunday.

  • Pick: Indiana

- No. 25 Wisconsin Badgers at No. 23 Purdue Boilermakers

  • Time/TV: 7:00 p.m. EST (BTN)

Wisconsin continues to fall on hard times following a loss to Dosumnu-less Illinois in Madison over the weekend, but still are a lock on the NCAA at this point. Meanwhile Purdue gets home court advantage for the only regular season matchup between these two programs.

Wisconsin has lost five straight to Purdue and last won at Mackey on Jan. 25, 2014. D’Mitrik Trice continues to be a huge catalyst for Wisconsin, making or assisting on 49 percent of the team’s offensive possessions over the last three games. Overall, the Badgers have had 40 assists on 68 field goals over the past three games, compared to Purdue’s 41 assists on 85 field goals.

Purdue is looking for chance to catch Iowa in the standings as the Boilermakers sit at 11-6 to Iowa’s 12-6 currently. PU has been scoring 77 points on average in its three game home win streak of late, while holding opponents to just 65.7 ppg. The Badgers have averaged just 66.3 ppg in conference play during the season, putting them 11th in the league. If the Badgers can’t come up with an answer for Trevion Williams then their pace likely won’t matter enough in this one.

  • Pick: Purdue