Illinois will attempt to reverse the course of its recent slump when the Fighting Illini travels to surging Penn State in a Big Ten Conference clash.
TV schedule: Tuesday, February 18, 6:30 pm ET. FS1.
Arena: Bryce Jordan Center in University Park, Pa.
A pair of Big Ten Conference clubs trending in opposite directions will do battle on Tuesday night, as Illinois pays a visit to red-hot Penn State. The Fighting Illini (16-9, 8-6) has dropped four in a row and is currently tied for sixth in the league standings, while the No. 9 Nittany Lions (20-5, 10-4), winners of eight-consecutive affairs, are presently one game behind Maryland for first place in the Big Ten race.
An efficient crew on both ends of the court, Penn State is at No. 17 in the NCAA NET system and projected as a No. 4 seed in the upcoming March Madness. However, the Nittany Lions, should they continue to succeed, could certainly advance up another seed line or two. Illinois, on the other hand, is No. 38 in the NET, with bracketologists forecasting the Fighting Illini as a No. 8 seed in the Big Dance.
To date in the 2019-20 campaign, Illinois has compiled solid victories against Michigan and Purdue twice, along with Wisconsin, Rutgers and Minnesota. Conversely, the Fighting Illini has fallen to Arizona, Miami, the Terrapins and Michigan State each twice, Missouri, Iowa and the Scarlet Knights.
Penn State’s resume is filled with a bunch of quality achievements, over groups such as Georgetown, Syracuse, UMD, Alabama, the Hawkeyes, Ohio State, the Wolverines, Indiana and the Spartans. The Nittany Lions’ five setbacks are to Ole Miss, the Buckeyes, Rutgers, the Badgers and the Golden Gophers.
A critical component of this tussle between Penn State and Illinois is the status of Fighting Illini sophomore guard Ayo Dosunmu. The team’s top scorer at 15.8 points per encounter, Dosunmu injured his knee at the conclusion of Illinois’ one-point loss to Michigan State on Feb. 11.
Fighting Illini head coach Brad Underwood said in this article that Dosunmu is considered day-to-day. If Dosunmu can’t suit up, or only plays limited minutes, Illinois could find it challenging to produce a sufficient amount of points to upset the Nittany Lions on the road.
On the year, the Fighting Illini is averaging 73.0 points every 40 minutes and allowing 65.2 points. Illinois connects on 44.3 percent from the field, 73.5 percent from the charity stripe and a paltry 31.1 percent from beyond the arc.
Penn State generates 77.5 points per meeting and gives up 67.4 points while hitting on 44.7 percent from the field as a whole, 69.2 percent from the free-throw line and 33.6 percent from deep.
Ball security and points off of turnovers could prove pivotal facets to this bout. The Nittany Lions pick up a nifty 8.1 steals per contest and the Fighting Illini fork over 12.7 miscues a game.
Since Penn State is stellar on its own turf, ESPN’s Basketball Power Index says that the Nittany Lions possess a convincing 77.7 percent chance to prevail.
Although Illinois holds an all-time edge of 28-19 versus Penn State, the Nittany Lions have captured six straight in the series. To make matters worse for the Fighting Illini, in its last 18 true road tilts against top-25 foes, Illinois hasn’t won once. For that reason, I’ll take Penn State here.
Prediction: Penn State 76 – Illinois 70