There’s a massive showdown in the Big Ten on Wednesday night between the no. 11 Wisconsin Badgers and the no. 18 Illinois Fighting Illini. These are two of the three teams currently tied atop the Big Ten, making this a critical game in the regular-season title chase. At home, Illinois is favored by 6.5 points with an over/under of 139.5 points.
It’s been a while since Illinois had anything close to an easy game. Not long ago, the Illini lost back-to-back games, only to win their last two games by a total of four points. Nevertheless, they are 8-2 in league play and 15-5 overall.
Wisconsin is also coming off a couple of close wins against two of the lesser teams in the Big Ten, beating Nebraska and Minnesota by just 14 total points. However, the Badgers remain one of the hottest teams in the country, with nine wins in their last ten games. That stretch has them sitting at 8-2 in the Big Ten and 17-3 overall.
The Law Firm
The Badgers have been led all season by the tandem of Johnny Davis and Brad Davison. Davis is making a serious push for Big Ten Player of the Year honors, averaging 21.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game, leading Wisconsin in each stat. Davison isn’t far behind, averaging 15.7 points per game while shooting 39% from three-point range and averaging nearly three made three-point field goals per game.
The question with Wisconsin is how much the Badgers get out of their supporting cast each game. Tyler Wahl and Steven Crowl are important frontcourt players, averaging 10.8 and 9.1 points per game, respectively. Freshman Chucky Hepburn offers a change of pace in the backcourt, although Wisconsin doesn’t have anyone outside of those five players who averages more than three points per game.
After being without a couple of key players for a few games, the Illini are set to be at full strength for Wednesday’s game. Center Kofi Cockburn is the biggest key, as he returned from a concussion with 22 points and nine rebounds in the win over Northwestern on Saturday. Even though Illinois managed to beat Michigan State without their big man, Cockburn is critical for the Illini, who don’t have much size without him.
Wednesday also marks the return of point guard Andre Curbelo, who has played in just six games this season. While Illinois is loaded with talented guards, Curbelo is the best pure point guard on the roster, changing how the Illini attack and giving Illinois another player who can score double digits on any given night. Plus, the Illinois guards had an off-night against Northwestern, so getting Curbelo back could add some much-needed stability.
Strength in Numbers
Wisconsin will have the best player on the floor in Davis, but that’s all the Badgers can claim in this matchup. The Illini has a deeper contingent of guards and a big man who can dominate. Bet on Illinois to win and cover at home on Wednesday.
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