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1/27 Big Ten basketball preview: Indiana at Illinois

There’s multiple Big Ten teams in action on Saturday.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 21 Rutgers at Illinois Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s a three way race at the top of the Big Ten standings that could dwindle to two in the next week or so.

Wisconsin sits atop the conference with a questionable road loss to Penn State. Purdue is seeking to repeat with two early road losses and Illinois just dropped a game it probably couldn’t afford to lose if it wants a shot at the title.

Only the Illini have a chance to keep their hopes alive tomorrow while the rest of the league looks to build on, or haphazardly put together, NCAA Tournament resumes.

Let’s get into it.

Indiana Hoosiers at Illinois Fighting Illini

  • Time/TV: 3 p.m. ET on FOX
  • KenPom Spread: Illini by 15 I

Indiana enters Champaign needing any sort of signature win on the season while Illinois heads home from Evanston trying to avoid dropping to 5-4 in conference play.

The Illini have Terrence Shannon Jr back in the lineup after he was granted an injuction to return to the court following his suspension over a rape charge in Lawrence, Kansas. He played 39 minutes against Northwestern, scoring 12 points.

The Hoosiers could be without Kel’el Ware, who missed their game against Wisconsin after being injured during practice, though Mike Woodson has said he’s practiced without any contact.

Indiana, which would fall below .500 in the league with a loss, needs this game more than Illinois with the latter unlikely to make up enough ground in the standings to challenge for a title.

They might not have what it takes.

  • Pick: Illinois

Nebraska Cornhuskers at Maryland Terrapins

  • Time/TV: Noon ET on BTN
  • KenPom Spread: Terps by 1

Nebraska has snapped something of a skid in league play with back to back home wins over Northwestern and Ohio State. But the Huskers have yet to win a conference game on the road, falling to Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Rutgers.

Maryland presents a chance in that regard but how much of one?

The Terps have been dangerous at home through the first year and a half of the Kevin Willard era and look better now than they did two months ago. It’s probably not enough to challenge for an NCAA Tournament bid, but they’ll be a tough out.

If Nebraska walks out of the XFINITY Center with a win it’ll strengthen a growing NCAA Tournament resume. A loss could lead could snap the recent momentum.

Pick: Nebraska

Iowa Hawkeyes at Michigan Wolverines

  • Time/TV: 5 p.m. on FS1
  • KenPom Spread: Hawkeyes by 1

It feels like only one of these teams has something to play for.

Michigan has become desolate under Juwan Howard, a husk of the program it once was. A promising start to the season has fallen completely flat since with an overall losing record and a team rapidly sinking to the bottom of the Big Ten.

Iowa is battling some fan apathy after a recent string of poor attendance, but there’s enough of a young core lead by potential Big Ten Freshman of the Year Owen Freeman. The Hawkeyes will at least be okay in the years to come.

As for the Wolverines... Howard is probably gone after this year.

  • Pick: Iowa

Minnesota Golden Gophers at Penn State Nittany Lions

  • Time/TV: 6:30 p.m. on BTN
  • KenPom Spread: Nittany Lions by 1

An interesting start to the season has since fizzled out for Ben Johnson and the Gophers.

Minnesota got to 3-1 in the Big Ten with wins over Nebraska, Michigan and Maryland but hasn’t won a game since, falling to 3-5 in the league. A loss to Indiana kicked off a four-game losing streak that’s sent them back to the bottom.

A home matchup with Wisconsin was a prime opportunity to right the ship against one of the league’s best teams but the Badgers ended up pulling away despite the Gophers making things interesting late.

Joining them there is Penn State in year one of the Mike Rhoades era. The Nittany Lions were never going to challenge for a second straight tournament bid with the coaching change and roster turnover, but they’ve picked up enough wins to be interesting.

Minnesota probably needs this one if Johnson wants another year.

  • Pick: Minnesota

Ohio State Buckeyes at Northwestern Wildcats

  • Time/TV: 8:30 p.m. on BTN
  • KenPom Spread: Wildcats by 3

Ohio State has not won a road game in over a year.

Over a year.

Northwestern is coming off of its second biggest win of the season after Purdue. Ohio State has been reeling after a good start in the nonconference quickly turned into a 3-5 record in the Big Ten that could put them on the outside looking in on March Madness again.

Chris Holtmann is definitely starting to feel some heat to his seat in Columbus. Ohio State isn’t the kind of program that should miss the postseason two years in a row, not with the talent he has.

I think the Wildcats take this one here to add onto the resume.

  • Pick: Northwestern