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2/27 Big Ten Preview: Illinois Heads to Michigan

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Illinois Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

There are four games today, starting with the best game of the day when Illinois travels to Ann Arbor.

Game of the Day

#15 Illinois Fighting Illini at Michigan Wolverines

Time/TV: 2:00 PM ET CBS
Line: Even

The Illini are currently 1.5 games out of first place and need a win today against Michigan if they want to stay in the race for Big Ten Title, especially as the Illini lost both of their games against Purdue. As for Michigan, they have a spotty record but a solid NET rating and if they can win a few of their games to close the season they could find themselves on the right side of the bubble.

The first time these teams played Illinois won by 15. It was a typical early season Michigan affair, shooting 36.7% from the field, hitting only one of their ten three pointers and shooting 57.1% from the line. They didn’t have Hunter Dickinson, though, and will hope their big can slow down Kofi Cockburn. The Illini have been a bit all over the place as of late, going 2-3 and struggling to win against Northwestern and Michigan State.

The Wolverines will have Moussa Diabate back tonight and will hope to build off of their win against Rutgers. Hunter Dickinson has been big as of late and will have his hands full with Cockburn. The key to today is if the Illini backcourt can stay hot from the perimeter. Michigan doesn’t have the firepower to keep pace in a high scoring affair, but they’re a solid team defensively and are playing at home.

It’ll be another close game, with Michigan forcing their style of play on the Illini. But the Wolverines inability to shoot from outside will allow the Illini to pick up the much needed win.

Pick: Illinois

The Rest

#22 Ohio State Buckeyes at Maryland Terrapins

Time/TV: 4:00 PM ET CBS
Line: Ohio State -4.0

Ohio State picked up a big win against Illinois earlier this week and has a realistic chance at finishing third in the Big Ten. They currently have a slim lead over Iowa and Michigan State, and with four games in eight days, Ohio State can’t afford a loss to Maryland as they try to at least maintain their double bye heading into the Big Ten Tournament.

The last time these teams played Ohio State won by 15, led by E.J. Liddell’s 24 points and 11 rebounds. Liddell figures to have another big performance against Maryland today. It’ll be interesting to see if Malaki Branham can keep up his recent hot pace, averaging almost 27 points per game the last three games.

Maryland is 2-6 their last eight games, only picking up wins versus Nebraska and Penn State. Fatts Russell has been hot as of late, but the Terps are a poor shooting team prone to turnovers. Even with the game at home they’ll have issues slowing down an Ohio State team looking better down the stretch.

Pick: Ohio State

Indiana Hoosiers at Minnesota Golden Gophers

Time/TV: 6:00 PM ET ESPN2
Line: Indiana -2.5

Indiana ended a five game skid with a much needed win over Maryland. Today’s game against Minnesota won’t move the needle much on their quest for an NCAA Tournament appearance, but a loss to the Gophers could be highly detrimental. Minnesota will look to play spoiler after coming up a point short against Wisconsin.

The Hoosiers haver struggled closing out games, including blowing a potentially huge win at Ohio State before getting ran out of the gym in overtime. The talent is there so they should win at Minnesota, but Indiana has been an inconsistent mess at times outside of Trayce Jackson-Davis. They’ve shown flashes of putting things together under Mike Woodson, but the five game skid is proof that they’re still making some of the same mistakes they did under Archie Miller.

Luckily for the Hoosiers the Gophers are thin and have struggled heavily down the stretch. The game being at Minnesota should give the Gophers some energy and help keep it close, but if Indiana wants to make it to the postseason they’ll find a way to win today.

Pick: Indiana

Nebraska Cornhuskers at Penn State Nittany Lions

Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET BTN
Line: Penn State -10.5

Nebraska recently announced they would bring back coach Fred Hoiberg. While not surprising considering his buyout, his complete lack of success or improvement through three seasons is telling. The Cornhuskers are 2-19 their last 21 games and with three games on the road to close they very well could finish the season on an absolutely dreadful 2-22 close. Of their three remaining games, today is their most winnable.

Their opponent has actually looked pretty good the past two weeks, knocking off Michigan State and going 3-1. There’s a lot of work if Penn State wants to be a contender in the Big Ten, but they’re playing hard and hanging around with most teams they play. Penn State only averages 65.1 points per game, but they’re solid defensively and John Harrar cleans up on the glass most nights. The guard play is inconsistent, but the Nittany Lions have a backcourt that can make enough shots to compete with most teams in the Big Ten when they piece things together.

Against Iowa the Nebraska offense looked considerably improved, but most of the season they’ve shot poorly and been turnover prone. If Penn State’s guards can hit some shots it’s hard to see them losing tonight.

Pick: Penn State