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11/20 Big Ten Preview: Illinois Faces Virginia

Preview all of Sunday’s Big Ten action.

NCAA Basketball: Continental Tire Main Event-Illinois at UCLA Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten has a full slate of action on Sunday, highlighted by two marquee matchups involving Illinois and Maryland. There should be more than enough entertainment for fans and it marks a great opportunity for the league to build its national standing even further.

Let’s take a look at the schedule.

Game of the Day:

-No. 19 Illinois Fighting Illini vs. No. 16 Virginia Cavaliers

  • Time/TV: 3:00PM ET (ESPN)
  • KenPom Spread: Virginia by 4

With so much offseason attrition, Illinois seemed like one of the most uncertain Big Ten teams entering this season. While the squad looked more than capable of making some noise in March, nobody was really sure how it would all pieces together. Virtually every starter was expected to be new, and there was little telling how they would play together.

Well, a few games in and things are looking great.

Illinois not only jumped out to a 4-0 start to the season, but has done it in impressive fashion. The team steamrolled its first three opponents and then knocked off what’s perceived to be a nationally elite UCLA team on Friday night in Vegas. Terrence Shannon has also looked like an absolute star, including a 29-point performance against the Bruins.

The team will now face another tough test on Sunday against Virginia in Vegas. The Cavs weren’t great last season, but bring back a ton and seem to have returned to form so far. Naturally, that means overcoming the team’s staunch defense will be the primary challenge. Shannon and Matthew Mayer will need to make their impact felt there. Otherwise, expect Illinois to have to convert on a lot of low percentage looks on Sunday.

Perhaps the matchup to watch elsewhere is in the backcourt. Skyy Clark has been great for Illinois so far, but this is a completely different animal. How he initiates the offense and performs against Reece Beekman and Kihei Clark will be crucial. Expect some inconsistencies. However, this feels like a game Illinois can win.

  • Pick: Illinois

The Rest:

-Maryland Terrapins vs Miami Hurricanes

  • Time/TV: 1:00PM ET (ESPN)
  • KenPom Spread: Maryland by 2

The Terps went to work on Saturday, scoring a really valuable win over Saint Louis to improve to 4-0 on the season. The team will return to action on Sunday against what projects as an even tougher Miami squad. The Hurricanes are similarly 4-0, ranked 36th on KenPom, and boast a really talented offense. Norchad Omier leads things down low.

The key in this one is going to be Maryland’s defense. Can the Terps hold up, particularly on the perimeter? The good news is the team did just that on Saturday against Saint Louis and should be able to do so here yet again. Donta Scott will also need a big game.

  • Pick: Maryland

-Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions at Nebraska Cornhuskers

  • Time/TV: 3:30PM ET (BTN)
  • KenPom Spread: Nebraska by 22

The Huskers will look to bounce back in this one after a 20-point loss on the road against St. John’s earlier this week. Fortunately, the Golden Lions are simply terrible and should be an easy opportunity for Nebraska to grab a win. Look for the Huskers to cruise and deploy some of the bench.

  • Pick: Nebraska

-No. 12 Indiana Hoosiers vs. Miami (OH) Red Hawks

  • Time/TV: 5:30PM ET (BTN)
  • KenPom Spread: Indiana by 27

This one is (oddly) being played in Indianapolis, but has all the feels of a “buy” game against a lesser opponent. While Indiana enters the game with an unblemished record, Miami is 1-3 and 289th nationally on KenPom. Like Nebraska above, expect the bench to be featured heavily in this one. It will be interesting to see what time the freshmen get.

  • Pick: Indiana

-Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Colorado State Rams

  • Time/TV: 6:00PM ET (ESPNU)
  • KenPom Spread: Penn State by 5

The Nittany Lions have really overachieved to start the season. Penn State already beat Butler and Furman and seems poised to make some noise in the Big Ten. Unfortunately, the team came up just short against Virginia Tech on Friday, meaning Penn State was relegated into this game against Colorado State.

However, the Rams are no slouches and made last year’s NCAA Tournament. Colorado State is a perimeter-oriented team that relies on undersized forwards to carry it. In a lot of ways, they play a similar style to Penn State, so it should be a fun game to watch. Andrew Funk and Seth Lundy need to show up. That’s where the game will be decided.

  • Pick: Penn State

-Ohio Bobcats at No. 20 Michigan Wolverines

  • Time/TV: 7:30PM ET (BTN)
  • KenPom Spread: Michigan by 17

After a mixed trip to New York City, Michigan returns home for a “buy” game against Ohio on Sunday night. The Bobcats aren’t an abysmal squad, but are significant steps removed from where they’ve been in years past. They are coached by former Ohio State assistant Jeff Boals and will be well prepared for this one. Ohio has no matchup for Hunter Dickinson, so the key is going to be how Michigan takes advantage of double teams on Dickinson. If the team’s perimeter players can convert, this should be an easy win.

  • Pick: Michigan


Picks Record: 30-5-0