Saturday afternoon features a Big Ten showdown as the No. 5 Illinois Fighting Illini (15-5) take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers (13-9). Minnesota will host this one at the Williams Arena, with tipoff scheduled for 3:30 pm ET.
Illinois comes into this one on a nice little run as they have won six games in a row. Amongst those six wins were big victories over No. 21 Wisconsin (75-60) and No. 11 Iowa (80-75). Currently second in the Big Ten, the Illini will look for the 12th conference win as they travel to Minnesota.
Minnesota currently ranks 10th in the Big Ten at 6-9. They have lost two in a row and five of their last seven heading into Saturday’s contest. With that in mind, they have been two different teams depending on if they have been at home (13-1) or on the road (0-8). Playing at home Saturday, they will look to upset the No. 5 Illini.
The Illini are the favorites despite playing on the road. They are -230 to win, while Minnesota’s moneyline sits at +190. The spread features the Golden Gophers +5 while the over/under for total points is 148.
By The Numbers
Offensively, Illinois has been one of the best teams in the nation. They currently sit 14th in scoring, averaging 81.2 points per game. Minnesota ranks 72nd, averaging 74.8 points per game.
Defensively, it is once again the Illini who hold the advantage. They rank 118th in scoring defense, allowing 68.8 points per game to opponents. Minnesota falls to 216th, allowing 72.6 points per game.
Illinois Looking To Repeat Dominance of Minnesota
This is not the first time these two have played. Back on December 15th, the Illini pounded Minnesota 92-65 at home. In the win, Kofi Cockburn (33 points, 13 rebounds) was one of four Illini scorers in double digits. Illinois is hoping for a repeat performance on Saturday.
Speaking of Kofi Cockburn, he and Ayo Dosunmu continue to lead the Illini in scoring. Cockburn is averaging 17.4 points on 67.7% shooting. He is also pulling down 10.6 rebounds and averaging 1.5 blocks per game.
Guard Ayo Dosunmu leads the way in scoring averaging 21.3 points. He is shooting 49.1% from the field and 42.2% from three. A jack of all trades, Dosunmu is also averaging 6 rebounds, 5.1 assists, and 1.1 steals per game.
Other notable contributors include Trent Frazier (10 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists), Adam Miller (8.7 points, 2.5 rebounds), and Andre Curbelo (7.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists).
Minnesota Hopes For Another Upset On Their Home Court
While Minnesota may be struggling as of late, it is hard to ignore what they have done when playing at home. At 13-1, they have upset No. 3 Michigan (75-57), No. 4 Ohio State (77-60), and No. 11 Iowa (102-95) on their home court. They will look to make it a fourth top-25 team that they take down at home on Saturday.
Leading the way for the Golden Gophers is junior guard Marcus Carr. On the season, he is averaging 19.4 points on 41.5% shooting. He is also averaging 4 rebounds, 5.1 assists, and 1.2 steals per game.
Center Liam Robbins is the only other player averaging double digits with 12.3 points per game on 44.9% shooting. He is also averaging 6.9 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game.
Unfortunately, the Golden Gophers will be without their third-leading scorer as guard Gabe Kalscheur (9.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists) is out with a broken finger.
Taking Illini To Win And Cover
I have genuinely struggled with this one simply because of how impressive Minnesota has been at home. What I can’t ignore, though, is how bad they have been in general lately.
That, coupled with Kalscheur’s injury and Illinois’ recent performance, has me leaning towards taking Illinois to not only win but cover in this one. I wouldn’t blame you if you took Minnesota and the points, but for my money, I am taking Illinois to give Minnesota their second home loss and cover the 5-point spread in the process.