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Our Expert handicapper previews a Saturday full of marquee matchups in college hoops

PICK OF THE DAY: (2u) Illinois Fighting Illini (+1) @ -110

Michigan State Spartans @ #22 Illinois Fighting Illini, 9:00 PM:

  • The home team has won five of the last six meetings between these teams.
  • Illinois has won seven of the last eight games at home. (Stat courtesy of Statschecker).

The reason we’re backing Illinois.

Michigan State (16-8) has fallen from grace harder than any other team in the country.

The preseason #1 overall team fell out of the Top-25 rankings this week following a third consecutive loss, stumbling on the road to the Michigan Wolverine 77-68.

Senior Cassius Winston led the way, scoring 20 points with six assists and four rebounds. Junior Xavier Tillman added a big day in the paint, totaling a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds.

#22 Illinois (16-7) dropped a second straight game after falling at home to #9 Maryland 75-66.

The Fighting Illini were outscored by 11 in the second half and lost at home for the first time since December.

Only two players scored in double figures for Illinois, team-leading scorer Ayo Dosunmu and senior Andres Feliz.

Dosunmu put together 16 points with five rebounds and four assists and Feliz added 12 points and seven rebounds off the bench.

This game is tough to predict with Illinois being so good at home, yet they lost to Michigan State by 20 earlier this season.

Michigan State has the fourth worst ATS record in the Big Ten at (11-13) and, with that said, I like the Fighting Illini to kick the Spartans while they’re down and take care of business at home.

1u - Syracuse Orange Moneyline @ -200

NC State Wolfpack @ Syracuse Orange, 7:00 PM:

  • The home team has won five of the last seven meetings between these teams.
  • Syracuse has a 22-14 W/L in home games coming off two days rest since 2014-15. (Stat courtesy of Statschecker).

The reason we’re backing Syracuse

Syracuse (14-9) snapped a two-game losing streak when outlasting Wake Forest at home 85-83.

Sophomore Buddy Boeheim came up huge on both ends of the floor, totaling a game-high 23 points and four steals. Junior Elijah Hughes was also a force, adding 20 points with eight rebounds and four blocks.

NC State (15-8) got back on track and snapped a three-game losing streak on the road by defeating Miami 83-72.

The Wolfpack were balanced and efficient as a team, shooting 50 percent from the field and over 40 percent from three-point range.

Seniors C.J. Bryce and Markell Johnson powered NC State as each put together a double-double.

Bryce contributed a game-high 22 points and 11 rebounds and Johnson added 19 points and a team-high 12 assists.

These teams are nearly identical in terms of statistics which tells me this will be a close match up throughout.

My deciding factor is the Wolfpack have struggled on the road this season at 9-13 as an away team.

I’m rolling with the Orange at home to win outright on the moneyline.

1u - Penn State Nittany Lions (+5) @ -110

#13 Penn State Nittany Lions @ Purdue Boilermakers, 6:30 PM:

  • Penn State has been the third best team ATS in the Big Ten at (14-8-1). (Stat courtesy of Statschecker).

The reason we’re backing Penn State

#13 Penn State (18-5) racked up a sixth straight win by taking down Minnesota at home 83-77.

Team-leading scorer Lamar Stevens went off for a career-high 33 points on 11-of-21 shooting with seven rebounds and three assists.

Sophomore Izaiah Brockington was the only other Nittany Lion to score in double figures with 10 points and five rebounds.

Purdue (14-10) picked up a third straight win when rolling past Indiana on the road 74-62.

The Boilermakers were sharp, shooting 50 percent from three-point range led by sophomore Aaron Wheeler, who came off the bench knocking down all three three-point attempts for 11 points.

Fellow sophomore Eric Hunter Jr. led the team with 12 points, five rebounds and two steals.

It’s hard to make a case against Purdue having won 48 of the last 51 home games.

Yet, I’m going to do just that by riding the hot hand in Penn State.

The Nittany Lions are the more complete team and I like them to at least keep this close enough to cover.

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