Maryland vs Illinois Game Preview and Selection

Game: Maryland at Illinois (-3)

Sharp: Dave Miller

Selection: Illinois (-3)

A rare Top 25 matchup will take place on a Friday night when No. 9 Maryland travels to No. 20 Illinois for a critical Big Ten showdown at State Farm Center in Champaign.

First place in the conference will be at stake as well as a potential tie-breaker when it comes to Big Ten Tournament seeding, and Illinois will be looking for revenge after it blew a 15-point lead and lost in the first meeting between the teams two months ago in College Park.

The hero for Mark Turgeon's Terrapins (18-4, 8-3 Big Ten) in that first clash was Anthony Cowan Jr., who hit a tying 3-pointer late as well as the go-ahead free throw. The Terps have won five straight and are led by Cowan (16.3 points and 4.3 assists per game) and Jalen Smith (15.2 points, 10 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per contest). Maryland has found its way back into the Top 10 after lofty preseason expectations.

Meanwhile, Brad Underwood's Fighting Illini (16-6, 8-3) have not hit the hardwood since their seven-game winning streak was snapped last Sunday at Iowa. Freshman big man Kofi Cockburn (14 points and 9.2 rebounds per game) paces the squad along with Ayo Dosunmu (15.8 points per contest), a sophomore guard from Chicago who was a rare bright spot in the team's loss to the Hawkeyes. He netted his seventh straight game in double figures and has shown throughout the year that he is not afraid of a big moment. He is a much more efficient player after becoming the first true freshman to lead Illinois in scoring last season.

The Illini will be a really tough out at home, where they have won their last seven games by an average of 13.5 points. Defensively, the Illini are allowing only 61.2 points per game to Big Ten foes, an improvement from their non-conference slate.

It's an Illinois team that is excelling by playing a physical, hard-nosed brand of basketball. Underwood's squad is ranked in the Top 10 among all Division I teams in offensive rebound percentage, as the Illini average almost 13 offensive boards per game. That could be the difference in this one as the Terps look to avoid their first loss in three contests against a ranked opponent this season.

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