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1/4 Big Ten Preview: Illinois Fighting Illini at Minnesota Golden Gophers

Preview Tuesday’s Big Ten action.

NCAA Basketball: St. Francis (PA) at Illinois Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Big Ten basketball is back into the swing of conference play from here on out until March Madness. Tonight offers up a duo of options for fans, though where you live will dictate which game you are able to watch.

Let’s take a look at the games.

Game of the Day:

-Illinois Fighting Illini 9-3 (2-0) at Minnesota Golden Gophers 10-1 (1-1)

  • Time/TV: 7:00 PM EST (Big Ten Network)
  • DraftKings Spread: Illinois -5.5

Illinois hits the road to take on the Golden Gophers in a rescheduled matchup after being postponed this past Sunday. In what is often times a tough road environment, the Illini have a number of players who are coming into the game with a bit of rust following a pause due to COVID-19. According to Illinois head coach Brad Underwood, several players were isolation at home for several days as a result of positive tests for COVID-19. That could also lead to some players on the court tonight wearing masks during the game as a result.

However, the Illini are a lethal shooting threat from outside, averaging 40 percent from deep. The Gophers will also have their hands full trying to guard center Kofi Cockburn. The roster of veteran transfer players for Minnesota is likely to allow the team to switch more on ball screens to help diminish some of Cockburn’s effectiveness and keep perimeter players contested on the deep shots, though. Eric Curry for Minnesota will draw Cockburn again, however, and allowed him to go 21-for-27 from the field and make 19 free throw attempts between the two games against each other last season.

Minnesota is a tough team as well, though. Following the unexpected layoff by the Illini, hitting the road for a game at “the Barn” is no easy restart. Minnesota features two players, EJ Stephens and Payton Willis, who are hitting well over 40 percent from deep as well.

This game should be a good one and may very well see Illinois fall as a result of the break.

  • Pick: Minnesota

The Rest:

-Michigan Wolverines 7-5 (1-1) at Rutgers Scarlet Knights 7-5 (1-1)

  • Time/TV: 7:00 PM EST (Big Ten Network)
  • DraftKings Spread: Michigan -4

Rutgers managed to reschedule Central Connecticut State this past weekend to get some rust off after multiple game cancellations, and beat the Blue Devils by 31. Michigan, meanwhile, lost a tough one at home to UCF 85-71 last Thursday.

Expect the Wolverines to come into this one with a lot of urgency, but the team has been struggling over the past month. Meanwhile, Rutgers has had some impressive home court advantage in a four game win streak that includes a victory over then No. 1 Purdue. The Scarlet Knights are also averaging 75.8 ppg in those contests. Meanwhile, Michigan has averaged 73.2 ppg outside of Crisler Arena (66 ppg if you remove the Nebraska road win).

Michigan has the talent to win this one, but Rutgers is also a tough out on the road.

  • Pick: Rutgers