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    09/07/2011 10:47 PM
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Big Ten Basketball Minnesota Golden Gophers at Illinois Fighting Illini: Start Time, Odds, Free Pick

College Basketball on Wednesday night and we will see the Minnesota Golden Gophers travel to the Champaign, Illinois to take on the Illinois Fighting Illini. The game is scheduled for a 9:00 pm (Eastern) start time and will be televised on the Big 10 Network. Currently the odds for the game have Illinois favored by 1.5 points while the total sits at 141.5.  Check out Sportsbook Spy to see who the Public is taking on all of today's games.

Free Analysis: Tubby Smith's Golden Gophers are a near-perfect 14-1 on the season, and they are in the midst of a 10-game winning streak, which is their longest since running off 12 straight during the 2008-09 campaign. Minnesota recently improved to 2-0 in conference by posting a 69-51 victory over visiting Northwestern, moving to 10-0 at home in the process.  The Gophers possess a lot of size up front, which is reflected in their ability to rebound – No.1 overall in the country on the offensive glass and 16th overall – and block shots. They're first in the Big Ten and sixth overall in blocks. Minnesota is averaging 41.3 rebounds and outrebounding opponents by 11.1 per game – both of which are the highest marks in the Tubby Smith era. The Gophers also rank 12th in the nation in steals, joining Syracuse as the only two schools among the top 20 nationally in rebounds, steals and blocks. Andre Hollins (13.1 ppg, 3.5 apg), Rodney Williams (12.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 21 blocks) and Austin Hollins (11.1 ppg) are the team's only double-digit scorers on the season, although Joe Coleman (9.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg) and Mbakwe (8.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg) could join them at some point. The team as a whole is netting 75.5 ppg while yielding just 59.2 ppg, and it is shooting a collective 46.9 percent from the floor while the opposition checks in at 38.1 percent.

Illinois is having a terrific season as well, as first-year head coach John Groce has his team out to a 14-2 record. The Illini had won its first 12 games, but an 82-73 loss to rival Missouri a few days before Christmas started the team on a minor slide that saw it lose two of three, the second of which was at Purdue (68-61) in the Big Ten opener. Groce rallied his troops though, and they routed previously eighth-ranked Ohio State at home last Saturday, 74-55. The Illini’s win over the Buckeyes marked its largest margin of victory over a top-10 opponent since 1964. Illinois forced 16 turnovers against an Ohio State team averaging just 10.3 entering the game and held the Buckeyes to a season-low 20 field goals. The Illini endured their fifth sub-30 percent shooting effort beyond the arc in their last six games in the win, but received a huge boost inside from sophomore forward Nnanna Egwu, who had a career-high 16 points, shot a career-best 7-for-10 from the field and added a team-high eight rebounds, one off his career high. Paul continues to lead the team in just about every major statistical category, posting averages of 18.5 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, while his 56 assists are just a shade above Abrams (12.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 55 helpers). D.J. Richardson (10.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg) rounds out the double-digit scorers for an Illinois team that nets 75.8 ppg in hitting 36.5 percent of its 3-point attempts while forcing more than 15 turnovers per outing.

Free Pick: Should be a very good game between two ranked teams. Illinois is off a rout of Ohio State, but Im not sure they can maintain that intensity for this one. Minnesota is playing really well right now and their inside game should be too much for the Illini to handle. I look for Minnesota to wear this team down and walk away with a huge road win here. 

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