Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. Illinois Fighting Illini (+2, 129)
Teams intent on solidifying their NCAA Tournament resumes collide when Illinois and Minnesota open Big Ten tournament play in Chicago on Thursday. The eighth-seeded Fighting Illini lost three of their last four regular-season games but are counting on victories over Gonzaga, Indiana and Ohio State to bolster their at-large chances. Ninth-seeded Minnesota lost 10 of 15 games after a 15-1 start and certainly would face a nervous Selection Sunday if it loses to the Illini.
The winner faces top-seeded Indiana in Friday’s quarterfinals. Illinois and Minnesota split two regular-season meetings, each winning on the other’s home floor. Illinois views the United Center as a home away from home and has a 33-11 record in the facility. Minnesota is 5-9 on the road and neutral courts. The Golden Gophers lead the Big Ten with an plus-8.1 rebounding margin while Illinois (minus-0.7) is one of three conference teams that have been outrebounded overall.
* Under is 7-3 in the last 10 meetings.
* Favorite is 14-6 ATS in the last 20 meetings.
* Golden Gophers are 6-14 ATS in the last 20 meetings.
Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Michigan Wolverines (-14.5, 135)
Fifth-seeded Michigan doesn’t have to be reminded about what could happen it if overlooks 12th-seeded Penn State when it opens Big Ten tournament play Thursday. The No. 8 Wolverines let a 15-point lead get away in losing to the Nittany Lions on Feb. 27 in one of the more stunning upsets of the college season. Penn State had lost 14 straight games prior to delivering a blow that helped derail Michigan’s hopes of winning the regular-season crown.
The winner of this contest faces fourth-seeded Wisconsin in Friday’s quarterfinals. The Wolverines were in the running for an opening-round bye – not to mention a share of the Big Ten crown – until losing to Indiana in the regular-season finale. Penn State went 2-2 over its final four regular-season games after going nearly two months without a victory. The Nittany Lions defeated 11th-place Northwestern in addition to the Wolverines. Michigan won the first meeting, 79-71, 10 days prior to losing to Penn State.
* Over is 6-0 in the last six meetings.
* Favorite is 14-6-1 ATS in the last 21 meetings.
* Nittany Lions are 6-15-1 ATS in the last 22 meetings.
Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Purdue Boilermakers (-6.5, 124)
Purdue’s only chance at extending its NCAA Tournament streak to seven is to win the Big Ten tourney and the Boilermakers begin that arduous task against 10th-seeded Nebraska on Thursday in Chicago. The seventh-seeded Boilermakers are one game below .500 entering the tourney and need four victories in four days to keep the streak from being halted. The Cornhuskers are rebuilding under first-year coach Tim Miles and surviving past Friday would rate as a significant accomplishment.
The winner of the contest faces second-seeded Ohio State in Friday’s quarterfinals. Purdue won this season’s lone meeting by recording a 65-56 win on Nebraska’s home floor on Jan. 16. The Boilermakers routed Minnesota 89-73 in their regular-season finale and have won three of five games entering the tournament. The Cornhuskers also recently defeated Minnesota for their only victory in their last four games. Nebraska averages a conference-low 58.6 points per game.
* Cornhuskers are 2-5 ATS in their last seven neutral-site games.
* Boilermakers are 5-11 ATS in their last 16 neutral site games.
* Over is 24-11 in Boilermakers' last 35 vs. Big Ten.
Northwestern Wildcats vs. Iowa Hawkeyes (-9, 124)
Iowa needs a strong performance in the Big Ten tournament to improve its dicey NCAA Tournament hopes. The sixth-seeded Hawkeyes open conference tourney play against 11th-seeded Northwestern in Chicago on Thursday and an opening-game loss would squash Iowa’s chances at earning an at-large bid. Iowa has won six of its last eight games and probably needs at least two more wins to improve its odds. Northwestern has lost eight straight games and 10 of 11.
The winner of the contest faces third-seeded Michigan State in Friday’s quarterfinals. The Hawkeyes won the two regular-season meetings with the Wildcats by an average of 17 points. Northwestern has averaged just 51.8 points during its losing skid and ranks 11th in the Big Ten at 60.8 per outing. Iowa ranks third in the conference in scoring at 70.3 and leads the Big Ten in field-goal percentage defense at 38.7. Northwestern shoots 40.2 percent, second-lowest in the conference. The Hawkeyes are just 4-9 on road and neutral courts.
* Over is 5-2-1 in the last eight meetings.
* Underdog is 9-4-1 ATS in the last 14 meetings.
* Under is 10-4-1 in Wildcats last 15 vs. Big Ten.