The Big Ten has two games on Friday night with Big Ten title and significant postseason implications. Nebraska travels to face Purdue in the early game and Illinois hosts Michigan State later on.
Let’s take a look at the schedule.
Game of the Day:
-Michigan State Spartans at Illinois Fighting Illini
- Time/TV: 9:00PM ET (FS1)
- KenPom Spread: Illinois by 5
It’s been a similar route for both these teams through 16 games. Each had significant preseason expectations and got off to a great start before some missteps. However, both then recovered and enter Friday’s matchup with plenty of excitement. Michigan State has won six straight while Illinois has won three of four.
On the court, this figures to be a matchup that swings heavily on the backcourts. Each has shown significant inconsistency there, so it’s an area where each can exploit things if they play well. Illinois will hope Jayden Epps and Sencire Harris are ready for the environment as young players. Michigan State will lean on AJ Hoggard and Tyson Walker. It’s experience vs talent in this one.
The stars, however, will come on the wing with Joey Hauser facing off against Terrence Shannon and Coleman Hawkins. Hauser has been red hot of late, but is a player that’s prone to disappearing for segments offensively, often relying on others to create. That gives Illinois a chance to make a mark with Shannon’s productivity. Jaden Akins will also try and slow down Illinois for the Spartans here.
The tempo should also be interesting in this one. While Michigan State has been known for fast basketball over the last few years, the Spartans haven’t played that way this season, ranking 293rd in adjusted tempo. Meanwhile, Illinois ranks 58th, which could cause a contrast of styles here. It’ll be interesting to see who controls the pace.
All told, these teams look relatively balanced. However, Michigan State is probably due for a letdown performance after the last month. Look for a tight one with an Illinois win.
- Pick: Illinois
-Nebraska Cornhuskers at No. 3 Purdue Boilermakers
- Time/TV: 7:00PM ET (BTN)
- KenPom Spread: Purdue by 15
While this one doesn’t look particularly intriguing on paper, there’s been a recent history in the Big Ten of underwhelming teams challenging marquee opponents on the road. In fact, fans just saw it last night with Minnesota’s road win over Ohio State. Husker fans will be hoping to pull off something similarly on Friday night. Nebraska also gave Purdue a scare when the two teams faced off earlier this season, forcing things into overtime.
The question here will be whether Nebraska’s defense can slow down Purdue enough to keep things close into the second half. The Boilermakers have the nation’s best offense, led by star big man Zach Edey. Obviously, that presents a major challenge to Nebraska. It’s up to Derrick Walker and Juwan Gary to defend the paint. Otherwise, things could get rough, as Purdue should be able to grab an easy win here.
- Pick: Purdue
Picks Record: 66-23-0