As we enter the final month of the college basketball regular season, there is plenty up for grabs. Tournament berths and seedings are far from determined, and conference championships are still up in the air.
The Big Ten will boast the largest game of the Friday night slate with Maryland traveling to Champaign to take on Illinois. These two teams are currently tied atop the Big Ten standings at 8-3 in league play, each a half-game ahead of Michigan State.
Illinois is 16-6 overall on the season and has currently won seven consecutive home games since dropping a game to Miami in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Dec. 2. The Illini are coming off a road loss to Iowa Sunday in a game in which they allowed the Hawkeyes to average 1.14 points per possession on offense.
Brad Underwood’s team is led by sophomore guard Ayo Dosunmu, a 6-5 Chicago native who is averaging roughly 16 points and 3.5 assists per game. In the paint, the Illini boast one of the largest big men in the nation in Kofi Cockburn. The 7-foot, 290-pound freshman is averaging nearly a double-double at 14 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. He is a monster on the offensive glass, ranking fourth in the league with 78 offensive rebounds on the season.
Maryland enters the game on a five-game winning streak in league play, including wins over some good clubs in Rutgers, Indiana, Purdue and Iowa. Sophomore forward Jalen “Stick” Smith has been electric during the winning streak, averaging 20.8 points, 12.2 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game.
Senior point guard Anthony Cowan Jr., who leads the team in scoring on the season at 16.3 points per game, has struggled from the field during the streak but is still handing out north of five assists per game.
Illinois is a three-point favorite at home, with the over/under set at 133.5.
It Comes Down To Coaching
Maryland is rarely void of talent. That is really never in question, however, since Mark Turgeon took over the program in 2011, their struggles against ranked teams are well documented.
Against ranked teams, the Terps are 14-38 under Turgeon. Against ranked teams on the road, Maryland is 1-19 under Turgeon. The Terps are 32-51 in true road games under Turgeon.
This season, the Terps are 2-4 straight up on the road and 3-3 against the spread in true road games. They are 5-1 ATS in their last six games. Their totals are 3-3 in the over/under.
Illinois Very Good At Home
The Illini win at home. It has been that way all season. Illinois is 12-1 straight up at home this season and 6-5-1 ATS on its home court. The Illini’s defense is typically very good, keeping scores under the projected total in eight of 12 home games this season.
The total has gone under in 10 of their last 14 games overall.
Too Hard To Ignore
A record of 1-19 against ranked teams on the road. That is all I need to know. Frankly, this Maryland team is more talented than Illinois, but if you are looking for an edge, you can’t ignore strong trends such as that.
The Smith-Cockburn matchup should be fun to watch as well as seeing Cowan navigate Illinois’ pressure defense. I like Illinois to win and to cover.
The total is up a point from the opening, so I might let it climb a little more and take the under. Even at 133.5, I am still playing the under.
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