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Big Ten Conference Rundown: Poll Jumping

The week of Big Ten basketball begins and ends with games between ranked foes.

Michigan State and Illinois get together on Tuesday with the hope that national player of the year candidate Kofi Cockburn will be cleared to play for the Fighting Illini, On Sunday, it will be Ohio State and Purdue going head to head.


The top nine teams in the Big Ten standings have two or fewer home losses, with Ohio State the lone conference team still perfect at home. Those home records will be put to the test in the coming days and weeks.

While Purdue (+1100) is among the top national championship contenders, Michigan State (+4000) and Ohio State (+5500) have been slow to move up that list.

Game of the Week

Michigan State Spartans at Illinois Fighting Illini

Date, time, TV: Tuesday, 7 p.m. ET ESPN

One of two showdowns of ranked teams in the coming days featuring powerhouse Big Ten programs.

The biggest question in this one is whether Illinois’ national player of the year candidate Kofi Cockburn will be cleared out of concussion protocol.

The 7-foot Cockburn missed the last two games and the Fighting Illini lost each of them.

Michigan State is 4-0 in true road games so the Spartans won’t be rattled going in and facing the Fighting Illini.

First place in the Big Ten standings will be on the line as Michigan State sits alone in first place while Illinois and Wisconsin are just a half-game back.

The Spartans have won the last three games in the series and five of the last six while going 4-2 against the spread.

Illinois Fighting Illini

The Fighting Illinois won’t need to travel far for the next road game when they square off with Northwestern on Saturday. The Fighting Illini have won the last six games against Northwestern, including two games on the road.

Alfonso Plummer is averaging 19 points over his last three games and has 11 three-pointers in his last two games.

Indiana Hoosiers

This could be a week for Indiana to make a move up the Big Ten standings with a home game against Penn State on Wednesday followed by Saturday’s contest at Maryland.

The Hoosiers (14-5, 5-4) have won six of the last eight games against Penn State, although the two losses came the last two times that the Nittany Lions were the home team. Four of the last five games in the series have gone under the total.

Indiana has failed to cover against the Las Vegas odds in two of the last three meetings with Penn State.

The Hoosiers’ 63-55 win on Jan. 4, 2021, snapped a three-game losing streak to Maryland.

Xavier Johnson is averaging 12.4 points and 4.4 assists over his last five games.

Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa (14-5, 4-4) has only one game this week but it could be a memorable one. The Hawkeyes will take to the road to meet up with nationally ranked Purdue on Thursday. The Hawkeyes have lost five of the last six games to Purdue, although the last time they played on the road against the Boilermakers, the Hawkeyes threw a scare into Purdue before falling by seven.

Iowa has covered in each of the last two meetings, including a 70-55 win on Dec. 22, 2020.

Keegan Murray is averaging 24.5 points and shooting 61 percent in home games.

Maryland Terrapins

Maryland (10-9, 2-6) kicks off its week with a game at Rutgers on Tuesday. The Terrapins did win at Rutgers in 2021, but that is the only victory in the last four matchups. Four of the last five games between the teams have gone under the total.

Maryland has won its last six home games against Indiana and covered in four of those six meetings.

Donta Scott came off the bench to score 25 points in the Terrapins’ win over Illinois.

Michigan Wolverines

Michigan (9-7, 3-3) is coming off back-to-back wins and will look to make it three in a row when Northwestern comes to Ann Arbor. Leading scorer Hunter Dickinson has scored at least 20 points in four of his last five games and is shooting 65 percent over that stretch.

Michigan has won the last four matchups with Northwestern and covered against the college basketball spreads in each of the last three.

If the Wolverines can win on Wednesday, it could give them some needed momentum heading into Saturday’s showdown with Big Ten-leading Michigan State.

The Wolverines have dropped five of its last seven to the Spartans and haven’t won at Michigan State since 2018. The Wolverines failed to cover in each of the last three trips to East Lansing.

Michigan State Spartans

After matching up with Illinois, Michigan State gets to square off with rival Michigan.

Michigan State has had Michigan’s number, especially at home. What is surprising about this series is the most recent meeting marked the second Michigan-Michigan State game decided by six points or less in the last 16 showdowns. Five of the last eight games between the rivals have gone over the total.

Three of Michigan State’s five games in January have been decided by six points or less.

Minnesota Golden Gophers

This won’t be the easiest week of the season for Minnesota.

The Golden Gophers (11-5, 2-5) will host No. 16 Ohio State on Thursday. Minnesota has won three of the last four meetings and covered in each of them, but it could take some work to accomplish that feat this season. The Golden Gophers have won three of the last four times when they host the Buckeyes.

That will be followed by a Sunday showdown at No. 11 Wisconsin. The Golden Gophers have won at Wisconsin once since 2010, although they have covered six times in the last 10 trips to Madison.

Leading scorer Jamison Battle has at least three three-pointers in each of the last three games.

Nebraska Cornhuskers

Nebraska (6-13, 0-8) has dropped its last two games, and a matchup with nationally ranked Wisconsin and national player of the year candidate Johnny Davis might not be the ideal way to snap a short losing streak. The good news is Nebraska is at home when the teams play on Thursday. The Cornhuskers dropped its last six games to Wisconsin, three at home and three on the road.

They should be well rested with the previously scheduled game against Ohio State being postponed.

The week will end with a Saturday night showdown with Rutgers. The Cornhuskers have covered in three of the last five meetings with the Scarlet Knights.

Nebraska is 0-6 in January, although the Cornhuskers did take Ohio State to overtime in their first game of 2022.

Northwestern Wildcats

Northwestern (9-8, 2-6) has had its issues with Michigan, recently losing by at least 19 points in each of the last three meetings. Four of the last meetings with the Wolverines have gone under the total and that would seem to be the way Northwestern would prefer this one to go, because trading basket for basket could be a recipe for disaster when the teams play on Wednesday night.

Seven consecutive times when Northwestern hosted Illinois, as it will do on Saturday, the game was decided by eight points or less. That most certainly changed in the most recent meeting with Illinois, listed by the college basketball odds as 6½-point favorites winning 81-65 on Jan. 7, 2021. The Wildcats have won four of the last six meetings when the game finished under the total.

Ohio State Buckeyes

No. 16 Ohio State (12-4, 5-2) snapped a three-game losing streak to Minnesota with a four-point win in the 2021 Big Ten tournament as the Buckeyes advanced to the title game before falling in overtime to Illinois. The last regular-season win over Minnesota came in 2018. At one point in the series, five straight matchups finished over the total, but in the last six meetings, only two have gone over the total.

With all due respect to Minnesota, the Buckeyes’ next game will generate significantly more buzz when Ohio State plays at Purdue in a matchup of ranked teams.

Ohio State had lost four of five to Purdue before winning in the quarterfinals of the 2021 Big Ten tournament. Three of the last four games have finished under the total.

E.J. Liddell has made at least 50 percent of his field goal attempts in each of the last four games.

Penn State Nittany Lions

Penn State (8-8, 3-5) will play Indiana on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. looking for its first season sweep of the Hoosiers since the 2008-09 season, although it should be noted that the two teams haven’t met twice every regular season. The Nittany Lions won 61-58 earlier this month behind 15 points from Jalen Pickett. The last time the Nittany Lions won at Indiana came in 2014.

Leading scorer Seth Lundy is only 9 of 31 from the floor in his last three contests.

Purdue Boilermakers

No. 6 Purdue (16-3, 5-3) will hit the road to face high-scoring Keegan Murray and the Iowa Hawkeyes on Thursday night.

The Boilermakers have won five of the last six games in the series with Iowa and covered against the spread in four of them.

There was a stretch where five of six games between Ohio State and Purdue were decided by four points or less from 2014-18, with Ohio State winning three times. Five of the last six games have been determined by seven points or more.

Zach Edey has made at least 75 percent of his field goals in six of his last nine games.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Rutgers (11-7, 5-3) has won three of the last four meetings with Maryland, including an 11-point road win on Jan. 15 as Ron Harper Jr. had 31 points and the Scarlet Knights overcame an 11-point halftime deficit.

The Scarlet Knights will play at Nebraska on Saturday. Rutgers has just one road win but will be facing the only Big Ten with a losing home record coming into this week’s action. It could be an opportunity to add to that total as Rutgers looks to remain in the top half of the conference standings.

Wisconsin Badgers

No. 11 Wisconsin (15-3, 6-2) goes after its seventh win in a row against Nebraska when the teams meet on Thursday. However, the Badgers are just 3-3 against the spread in those six games. Only one of those games has been determined by less than 10 points.

Five of the last six times that Wisconsin hosted Minnesota, the game finished under the total, due in large part to Minnesota being held under 60 points in four of those contests. That is a trend the Badgers will try to continue when the teams play on Sunday

Davis has at least 20 points in eight of his last 10 games and is averaging 26 points in the last two contests.

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