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3/6 Big Ten Preview: Top-10 Showdown Highlights Triple-Header

No. 4 Illinois-No. 7 Ohio State, Indiana-No. 23 Purdue, and Rutgers at Minnesota closes out the final Saturday of the regular season

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

Almost hard to believe, but we have reached the final weekend of the regular season for Big Ten basketball. However, this Saturday has a great slate of three games for fans before the tournaments fully take hold as we proceed through March Madness.

Game of the Day:

- No. 5 Illinois Fighting Illini at No. 7 Ohio State Buckeyes

  • Time/TV: 4:00 p.m. EST (ESPN)

The Illini come into this matchup with Dosunmu still questionable on a return to game action and facing their fifth road game out of the last six total games. Ohio State enters it hungry for some positive momentum again heading into postseason play after a rough stretch.

Last time out against the Buckeyes, Illinois struggled against E.J. Liddell who led all scorers in the game with 26 points. There is also always the chance of mind games coming into play with a confident Illinois squad coming off a huge blowout win at Michigan. However, over the last three wins, the Illini have had great defensive pressure and averaged +14.3 on the boards.

Ohio State has been struggling on offense of late after the tough loss to Michigan. OSU has shot poorly from three, but moved the ball well and gets to the rim. Against an Illinois squad that isn’t the best at avoiding fouls, that could come back to bite them as the Buckeyes hit well enough from the line to make it a challenge.

With more intangibles than normal at question, this one is tough to call. The tough road slate the Illini are finishing and a hungry Buckeye squad makes this one seem ripe for an Ohio State win, though.

  • Pick: Ohio State

The Rest:

- Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Minnesota Golden Gophers

  • Time/TV: Noon EST (FOX)

Rutgers was a solid lock on the NCAA tourney, and likely remains so. However, following a surprising blowout loss to Nebraska, the Scarlet Knights could really benefit from avoiding another ugly loss in their season finale after dropping three of the last four. Minnesota on the other hand is all but mailing it in of late as Richard Pitino Jr. seems clearly headed for the unemployment line soon.

A win for Rutgers is beneficial in the regular season finale to help avoid any doubt they can snap the NCAA tournament drought dating back to 1991. With Ron Harper Jr. and Geo Baker both struggling greatly in scoring of late, RU is in a dangerous spot with a second straight road game to end the season, both at the far opposite geographical end of the conference footprint. Harper has scored 10 or fewer points in four of the last seven games, while Baker has hit double-digits in only two of the last five.

Minnesota has gone 6-3 at home on the season with wins over multiple ranked opponents, but the last three games, including one at home, have been losses to the three teams in the basement of league standings. Marcus Carr will be called upon yet again after scoring 41 points (55.4 percent of the team’s total) against Nebraska, and at least 21 points in the last three games. Liam Robbins has been out the last three games and his status remains unknown for today’s game at time of writing.

The Scarlet Knights should get the win in this one, or else there may be some very nervous fans watching on Selection Sunday.

  • Pick: Rutgers

- Indiana Hoosiers at No. 23 Purdue Boilermakers

  • Time/TV: 2:00 p.m. EST (ESPN)

The Hoosiers are on life support, or more appropriately it seems the Archie Miller era is. Following Indiana’s loss at Michigan State earlier in the week, it looks like a NCAA tournament bid is all but out of reach beyond a miracle run to the auto-bid next week in the Big Ten Tournament. Purdue, meanwhile, looks to simply seek out yet another rivalry win over their in-state foe.

Indiana’s best shot in this game is capitalizing on the Boilermakers’ tendency to foul heavily. Keeping in mind PU is one of the worst teams in the league at forcing turnovers, the Hoosiers should expect to keep ball security and get sent to the free throw line in this one.

On the flip side, Indiana is shooting horrendously on offense. IU has failed to hit 40 percent or higher from the field in five of the last eight games, and has failed to score 70 or more points in the last three games. The Boilermakers have held opponents to an average of just 63.5 points over the past eight games while averaging 72.5 points themselves.

While the first game in Bloomington of the series was a Purdue win 81-69, the return game at Mackey is probably a lower scoring affair but still a resounding Boilermaker victory.

  • Pick: Purdue