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1/24 Big Ten Preview: Ohio State Heads to Illinois

NCAA Basketball: Indiana at Illinois Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

There are a pair of Big Ten games tonight with Penn State traveling to Rutgers and Ohio State heading to Illinois, both in the early slate tonight.

Game of the Night

Ohio State Buckeyes at Illinois Fighting Illini

  • Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET ESPN
  • Line: Illinois

Ohio State may have stopped the bleeding with a win over Iowa last weekend, but their five game losing streak still has them at 1-5 their last six games and 3-5 in conference play. With the schedule set to include road trips to Indiana and Michigan, with a home game versus Wisconsin in between, things won’t ease up anytime soon. That puts today comfortably in must win status for Ohio State if they want to salvage their season and try to regain some momentum towards a postseason bid.

Illinois is also in need of a win tonight. They bounced back from a 0-3 start with four wins in a row, though two of those were at home and the road games were bottom feeders Nebraska and Minnesota. A 15 point loss at home to Indiana is a painful reminder that they’re still only 4-4 in conference and this season could still go either way. In other words, a win tonight is much needed.

A lot of Illinois’ success stems from a mix of Terrence Shannon Jr.’s 18.1 points per game and a revolving door of contributors in both the backcourt and frontcourt. Against Indiana mostly everyone outside of Shannon struggled. If that happens again they’ll be vulnerable, but with today’s game at home you’d like to think they’ll bounce back.

Ohio State is led in scoring by Brice Sensabaugh but his defense has been a weak point that teams have taken advantage of. Justice Sueing and Zed Key are both solid forwards, but both occasionally disappear when needed. Past the trio of forwards the remainder of Ohio State is largely role players that occasionally step up. That’s not entirely different than how Illinois plays, but the Illini have had more consistent production from their roster compared to Ohio State.

The Illini should find enough offense to find a way to get past a reeling Buckeyes.

Pick: Illinois

The Rest

Penn State Nittany Lions at Rutgers Scarlet Knights

  • Time/TV: 6:30 PM ET BTN
  • Line: Rutgers -6.0

In the first game tonight Penn State heads to Rutgers to try to win their second game in a row. The Nittany Lions are sitting at 4-4 in conference play and could use a win with five of their next games including three road games and a pair of home games against Michigan and Wisconsin. The last time out Penn State won by 11 at home against Nebraska.

Rutgers was 7-1 their last eight heading into a road trip to East Lansing where they lost by 13. Rutgers has yet to score more than 68 points in a game in conference play, relying on their defense that ranks as one of the best in the country. Between a strong defense and solid home court advantage, Rutgers has found ways to win even without a consistent offense.

Penn State’s backcourt has proved to be surprisingly dynamic this season and capable of scoring, especially guys like Jalen Pickett and Seth Lundy. Guards Andrew Funk and Myles Dread also factor in as sharpshooters from beyond the arc. There’s been some consistency issues, however, and with Rutgers thriving on the defensive side of the ball look for the Scarlet Knights to slow down Penn State’s backcourt attack.

The difference should be inside, where Penn State is considerably lacking. Rutgers slows the game to a crawl and keeps Penn State from finding their stroke from deep, getting back into the win column.

Pick: Rutgers