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2/19 Big Ten Preview: Illinois at Michigan State

Preview Saturday’s Big Ten action.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 25 Michigan State at Illinois Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Big Ten features a triple-header today headlined with a top-20 matchup in East Lansing. Just over two weeks remain in the season at this point as March quickly nears and the standings are still tight at the top!

Let’s take a look at the games.

Game of the Day:

-No. 12 Illinois Fighting Illini (18-7, 11-4) at No. 19 Michigan State Spartans (18-7, 9-5)

  • Time/TV: 12:00 PM EST (ESPN)
  • TallySight Spread: Illinois -1

These two teams met in Champaign last month with a shorthanded Illini squad pulling off the one-point victory over MSU in a low-scoring affair. Now the Spartans enter this one with a bad road loss at Penn State as the most recent outing and the Illini got a tough beat down at Rutgers. Yet, the Spartans just still within potential striking distance of a share of the Big Ten title for the season and the Illini have a chance to tie Purdue at the top with a victory today.

Illinois should be able to win this one if the team can hit it from beyond the arc. Kofi Cockburn will have no problem down low scoring for the Illini, but the back court has struggled with consistency of late. Illinois couldn’t hit it from deep against Rutgers or Purdue and ended both games with a road loss.

Meanwhile, Michigan State has the same struggles. If the Spartans can’t draw fouls to get to the free throw line than the team can’t outscore its opponents. MSU has struggled to get out of the mid-60s in scoring of late, clearly wanting to imitate Wisconsin basketball on offense. Against Illinois last month, the Spartans managed just 55 points. Hence why the team needs the free throw line of late to win games.

At the end of the day tomorrow, it will likely be a slog for both teams. MSU wins when the Spartans shoot better than 46 percent from the field, though, while Illinois wines when the Illini shoot better than 42. First to 50 might be the winner.

  • Pick: Michigan State

The Rest:

-Iowa Hawkeyes (17-8, 7-7) at No. 18 Ohio State Buckeyes (16-6, 9-41)

  • Time/TV: 2:37 PM EST (FOX)
  • TallySight Spread: Ohio State -5

These teams managed to reschedule the matchup cancelled by plane and weather trouble, but the Hawkeyes likely would have benefited from getting out of it. Iowa had a three-game win streak over Big Ten bottom feeders Minnesota, Maryland, and Nebraska before Michigan snapped the streak in a five-point win in Iowa City. OSU fell at Rutgers (like so many others) before rattling off wins at Michigan and over Minnesota ahead of the matchup. The best hope for the Hawkeyes may be that OSU is caught looking ahead to the Hoosiers thanks to the short turnaround of Monday’s matchup.

Then again, against Michigan, Keegan Murray was kept out of the game during key stretches late due to leg cramps. Iowa is an efficient offense and may give the Buckeyes a tough challenge. However, E.J. Liddell should be able to expose the Hawkeyes interior defense like the Wolverines did. That alone should ensure an Ohio State win at the final buzzer.

  • Pick: Ohio State

-Northwestern Wildcats (12-12, 5-10) at Minnesota Golden Gophers (12-12, 3-12)

  • Time/TV: 4:00 PM EST (Big Ten Network)
  • TallySight Spread: Northwestern -1.5

Two of the Big Ten bottom feeders battle it out for a rare win opportunity down the stretch to help pad the resume ahead of Big Ten Tournament seeding. Northwestern can still try and challenge Penn State for getting that first round bye game. Minnesota has a way to go to hope for the same, but wins are nice where one can get them at this point. Then again, these teams will also conclude the regular season against one another with the Wildcats holding home court advantage in that one.

  • Pick: Minnesota