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2/23 Big Ten Preview: In-State Showdown for Illinois and Northwestern

NCAA Basketball: Indiana at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

There are three games tonight in what should be an entertaining night. Let's take a look at the upcoming action.

Game of the Night

#21 Northwestern Wildcats at Illinois Fighting Illinois

  • Time/TV: 9:00 PM ET BTN
  • Line: Illinois -5.5

In the main game tonight the Illini and Wildcats square off in the midst of a logjam towards the top of the conference. Northwestern is currently 1.5 games behind Purdue and a loss here would likely end their shot at winning the Big Ten. The Illini are one of six teams with seven conference losses all in play for a much coveted double bye in the Big Ten Tournament.

Northwestern used a 22-2 run in the second half to beat Illinois last time out 73-60. Of course that game took place in Evanston and the Wildcats enjoyed an eye raising 40-10 free throw advantage. If the officiating ends up a bit more balanced tonight that would likely swing things in favor of the Illini.

One of the biggest questions heading into tonight is the status of Terrence Shannon, who remained in concussion protocol as of yesterday. Shannon is the best offensive player for Illinois and is much needed against an emerging Wildcat offense spearheaded by guards Boo Buie and Chase Audige.

The tiebreaker here tonight might be the home court advantage Illinois is set to have. If Northwestern can't draw a favorable whistle the Illini should even the season series.

Pick: Illinois

The Rest

Penn State Nittany Lions at Ohio State Buckeyes

  • Time/TV: 6:30 PM ET FS1
  • Line: Ohio State -2.5

In the first game tonight Penn State heads to a reeling Ohio State. The Nittany Lions are on the outside looking in for the postseason, but a strong close to the season could help them reenter the mix. With possible quality wins against Rutgers, Northwestern and Maryland, the Nittany Lions can't afford to lose tonight against a one conference win Buckeyes.

It's been a rough season for the Buckeyes and even a win tonight wouldn't do much to change that. Ohio State has been rough on defense and the offensive struggles down the stretch have made things even worse. With Brice Sensabaugh also struggling it's been a long two months.

Penn States arsenal of playmakers in the backcourt have given them some much needed offensive firepower. As long as Jalen Pickett and Seth Lundy can continue to make plays the Nittany Lions should be fine tonight.

Pick: Penn State

Michigan Wolverines at Rutgers Scarlet Knights

  • Time/TV: 8:30 PM ET FS1
  • Line: Rutgers -5.5

Michigan squandered a potential high quality win against Indiana and still find themselves well on the wrong side of the bubble. The good news for the Wolverines is they have a chance for three quality wins to close out the season. The bad news is all three of those games are on the road.

Rutgers is an entirely different team in Jersey and their defense gives them a large advantage over an inconsistent Michigan squad. The problem with Rutgers is they still haven't pieced together the offensive side of the ball, allowing teams to hang around. With Caleb McConnell still a game time decision points might be difficult to find for the Knights.

Michigan has gotten hot to close out conference play in years past and a win over Rutgers wouldn't be a huge surprise. Michigan will need a big day out of Hunter Dickinson and Jett Howard, but Rutgers offensive struggles pave the way for a possible upset.

Pick: Michigan