Seriously, if the Big Ten could go back and decide against inviting Rutgers to join the conference, would league officials do so? The move wasn't made with the quality of the Rutgers football and men's basketball teams in mind but instead having the New York TV market for the Big Ten Network. But that entire athletic program -- the women's hoops team is OK I guess -- is a mess and has had several off-the-field black eyes of late. The men's basketball team might be the worst in modern Big Ten history. But if there's a win to be had this season, it might be Wednesday.
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Illinois at Rutgers (TBA)
This is the first major conference tipoff of the night at 6:30 p.m. on that Big Ten Network. I will rarely include a TBA line on these opening reports but I do think Rutgers has a legitimate shot to end its 24-game Big Ten losing streak, which includes last season's conference tournament. I say that because Illinois (10-12, 2-7) isn't very good, and Coach John Groce likely will be canned after this season. Shoot, he might be fired on the flight home if the Illini lose here. But three Illinois players are in question for this game due to injury: guard Kendrick Nunn and forwards Michael Finke and Mike Thorne Jr. The Illini lost 63-55 at home to Wisconsin on Sunday. The Badgers took their first lead with just under five minutes left in the first half and wouldn't trail again. Finke (9.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg) left the game with a knee injury in the second half after a collision with a UW player. Nunn (17.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg) also was involved in a collision and had to leave for a while. Thorne (12.9 ppg, 8.5 rpg) missed a third straight with a knee injury.
Rutgers (6-16, 0-9) actually isn't in the Big Ten basement -- Minnesota (0-10) is. The Scarlet Knights were destroyed at Michigan State on Sunday, 96-62. All but one of their conference losses this season have been by double digits. Mike Williams shot 8-for-14 to lead Rutgers with 18 points. Rutgers was outrebounded a whopping 56-27, leading MSU to a 33-2 advantage in second-chance points. Last season, Rutgers fell at Illinois 66-54 in their first Big Ten meeting.
Key trends: Illinois is 1-4 against the spread in its past five games. Rutgers is 5-17 ATS in its past 22 Big Ten games.
I'm leaning: Rutgers will be a dog, it just depends on how much. I do think this game is very close and that RU can win especially if all those Illini guys sit. The one with the best chance to play is Nunn.
Kansas State at No. 7 Kansas (-10)
Big 12 game at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2. K-State (13-8, 2-6) definitely has a lot of work to do for any shot at an at-large NCAA Tournament bid. Obviously an upset in Allen Fieldhouse, where Kansas has won 35 straight, would be a huge resume boost. The Wildcats were part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Saturday and beat visiting Ole Miss 69-64. A 19-2 second-half run for KSU was the difference. K-State is now 3-1 vs. the SEC this season. The news wasn't all good from that game as freshman point guard Kamau Stokes left in the first half with a knee injury and didn't return. As of now he's questionable. He has started in 20 of 21 games, averaging 9.9 points and 2.9 assists as the team's top ball-handler. Backup point guard Carlbe Ervin and swingman Wesley Iwundu shared duties at the point when Stokes left.
With Duke out of the AP poll on Monday, Kansas now has the longest active streak of being ranked at 136 straight weeks. The Jayhawks won the marquee game of the Big 12/SEC Challenge with a 90-84 OT win over Kentucky. Wayne Selden was unstoppable with a career-high 33 points, including seven in the overtime. KU hit only four field goals over the final 15:33 of the game, including one in OT. But the Jayhawks had 21 free throws in that span. KU is now 14-3 under Bill Sell all-time in OT games. KSU has won two of the past three meetings, but those were both in Manhattan (teams play there Feb. 20). Kansas has won the past nine at home vs. K-State.
Key trends: KSU is 3-7 ATS in its past 10 on Wednesday. KU is 6-2 ATS in its past eight following an ATS win. The home team has covered 15 of the past 21 meetings.
I'm leaning: Kansas.
Arizona State at Washington (-4.5)
This Pac-12 matchup in Seattle is the latest tip of the night at 11 p.m. ET on ESPNU. Arizona State (12-10, 2-7) can only play spoiler at this point of the season. It lost at home to No. 23 Oregon on Sunday, 91-74. The Sun Devils shot 39.3 percent compared to 50.9 for the Ducks. Oregon also got to the line 38 times, making 29. ASU had just 17 free-throw attempts. The Sun Devils turned it over 17 times, leading to 29 Oregon points. Obinna Oleka led ASU with 17 points.
Washington (14-7, 6-3) is an NCAA Tournament bubble team. It fell out of a share for the conference lead with a 98-88 loss at USC on Saturday. The Trojans were up 11 at the half and never looked back. Washington shot 36.4 percent from the field and was 8-for-32 from 3-point range. Pac-12 leading scorer Andrew Andrews scored 15 points on 3-for-14 shooting. The Huskies won at Arizona State 89-85 on Jan. 16 behind 30 points, 12 assists and six rebounds from Andrews. UW shot 52 percent overall. The Huskies are 22-6 vs. the Sun Devils under coach Lorenzo Romar. But ASU did win in Seattle last year, 78-68.
Key trends: ASU is 4-11 ATS in its past 15 Pac-12 games. UW is 9-4 ATS in its past 13 at home. Washington is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings.
I'm leaning: Washington.
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