Illinois at Rutgers
Let’s just go ahead and get this out of the way now: Rutgers is a trash basketball team and the program was only added to the Big Ten so the conference could get that sweet New York City media market money. At 13-17 and 2-15 in conference, there’s really no way the Illini (18-12, 8-9), who have won 4 in a row and 5 of their last 6, should mess this up.
BUT, we can never forget the greatest worst game of basketball in this century. Last year, Illinois and Rutgers scored a combined 211 points over 55 minutes of basketball that was absolutely glorious for weirdos like me. Illinois won that game, and last year was particularly injury-riddled and bad, but it’s always a good idea to remember that, on occasion, Rutgers can compete. Hell, by the transitive property Rutgers has already beaten Illinois (via a 70-68 win at Penn State, who beat the Illini twice).
Of course, there’s a lot more on the line for Illinois this year than there was in 2016. Everyone knows the score by now: Lose to Rutgers and get ready for a long offseason, but beat Rutgers and you’re one step closer to a Tourney bid. The job isn’t done, but I expect Illinois to keep rolling.
My prediction: Illinois keeps hopes alive, though in a less convincing manner than fans would prefer.