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2/5 Big Ten Preview: Illinois at Indiana

Preview Saturday’s Big Ten action.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 14 Big Ten Tournament - Ohio State v Illinois Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Big Ten slate today is a fully packed set of five games from noon up until the start of primetime tv. A number of teams sitting at or near the top of the league standings face tough but winnable road games as well.

Let’s take a look at the games.

Game of the Day:

-No. 18 Illinois Fighting Illini (16-5, 9-2) at Indiana Hoosiers (16-5, 7-4)

  • Time/TV: 12:00 PM EST (ESPN)
  • ESPN Matchup Predictor: Illinois 53.5%

Illinois blew the doors off the State Farm Center Wednesday night versus Wisconsin while Indiana had the week off after picking up a road win at Maryland last Saturday. The Hoosiers have won four of the last five overall with home court advantage in this one. The Illini have won three-straight coming into this one, but have split the last two road games.

IU does well at at grinding down opponents. Teams shoot just 37 percent from the field against Indiana and have only allowed at least 80 points by an opponent three times. The Hoosiers are 0-3 in those matchups, but 16-2 when keeping opponents under 80 with those two losses coming on the road. The Illini are 10-1 when scoring at least 80 with the loss coming in overtime to Purdue.

Illinois has been shooting incredibly well down the stretch of late. Overall, the Illini are also one of the top teams on the glass as well. If that hot shooting continues despite IU’s defensive prowess, and the team can grab second-chance points off the glass on misses, then this one should be a win for the Illini. If not, the Big Ten’s opener for the day’s action may have upset alert written all over it.

  • Pick: Illinois

The Rest:

-Northwestern Wildcats (10-10, 3-8) at Nebraska Cornhuskers (6-16, 0-11)

  • Time/TV: 1:00 PM EST (Big Ten Network)
  • ESPN Matchup Predictor: Northwestern 64.6%

The battle for NU on the hardwood tips off as an early afternoon game as both teams sit in the bottom echelons of the Big Ten. Nebraska is riding a 14-game losing streak in Big Ten action dating back to last season while Northwestern snapped a four game losing streak with an overtime win Tuesday night at home.

The Wildcats struggle on the road while the Huskers struggle everywhere. The real NU averages 71.7 ppg and gives up 76.9 ppg while UNL averages just 71.1 ppg and gives up 80.5 ppg. Perhaps both teams will best its season average in scoring against the other.

  • Pick: Nebraska

-Michigan Wolverines (11-8, 5-4) at No. 4 Purdue Boilermakers (19-3, 8-3)

  • Time/TV: 2:30 PM EST (FOX)
  • ESPN Matchup Predictor: Purdue 89.6%

Michigan barely avoided a home loss to bottom-feeder Nebraska Tuesday night while Purdue picked up a solid road win at Minnesota Wednesday night. The Wolverines only shot here is to ensure the team boxes out on defense to keep the Boilermakers second change points limited while finding its shot from outside again. Michigan couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn against in-state Rival Michigan State last Saturday on the road and struggled at home against the Huskers. Purdue excels at second-chance opportunities and is one of the hottest teams from beyond the arc during its four game win streak.

  • Pick: Purdue

-No. 13 Michigan State Spartans (17-4, 8-2) at Rutgers Scarlet Knights (12-9, 6-5)

  • Time/TV: 4:00 PM EST (FS1)
  • ESPN Matchup Predictor: Michigan State 66.1%

The Spartans barely escaped Maryland on Tuesday night with a wind and make a return to the east coast this afternoon to finish a two-game road stand against Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights saw Paul Mulcahy led the team in the second half to a stunning comeback after trailing by 18-points at halftime to force overtime Tuesday night, but fell by one-point in overtime. This one is a home game for RU, though, and Jersey Mikes’ Arena is proving a tough place for top teams to play this season.

Michigan State hosts a balanced attack that Rutgers cannot come close to matching, however. The Scarlet Knights rely almost exclusively on Geo Baker and Ron Harper Jr. offensively. MSU has had six different players lead the team in scoring this season. Gabe Brown, Max Christie, Marcus Bingham, and Malik Hall all average between 9.6 and 12.8 points per game, Hal doing so coming off the bench. Rutgers is a tough defensive team, though, so expect this one to be back-and-forth down to the buzzer.

  • Pick: Michigan State

-Penn State Nittany Lions (9-9, 4-6) at No. 11 Wisconsin Badgers (17-4, 8-3)

  • Time/TV: 6:00 PM EST (Big Ten Network)
  • ESPN Matchup Predictor: Wisconsin 86.5%

The Nittany Lions visit Madison to take on the Badgers in the final game of the day. PSU managed to win a wild and crazy double-overtime victory over Iowa Monday night that snapped a three-game losing streak while Wisconsin went just 3-for-24 from three-point range against Illinois on Wednesday. A visit from Penn State may be just the ticket for a shooting resurgence by Wisconsin, however, as the Badgers have a 20-game winning streak in Madison over Penn State heading into tonight’s game.

This game is likely to be low scoring, though. PSU is averaging just 66.4 points per game and allows a mere 66.6. Other than the double-overtime win against Iowa, the Nittany Lions have allowed 80 by an opponent just two other times this season. Wisconsin, meanwhile, averages 72.1 points on offense and gives up 67.1 on the defensive end.

  • Pick: Wisconsin