Illini Wonk
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
  Conference Kickoff!
Wow! What a way to kick off conference play! Thursday night on ESPN2, the Illinois Fighting Illini will put their nation's second-best home winning streak of 29 games on the line when they host the Michigan State Spartans. This game is what the Big Ten is all about and contains so many storylines.

The game features #6 vs. #7 in the latest AP Poll. Two teams from last year's Final Four. It pits the Disciple of Gene Keady vs. Disciple of Jud Heathcote. High school teammates Dee Brown and Shannon Brown battle it out for college supremacy. The two teams have dominated the Big Ten in recent years, with the two winning at least a share of seven of the last eight Big Ten titles.

Most importantly, the game is between two of the early favorites in the conference this year. Jeff Shelman of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune predicts a first place finish for the Illini. A top finish for the Spartans is predicted by Skip Myslenski of the Chicago Tribune, Jesse Osborne of the Wisconsin State Journal and Dave Dye of The Detroit News.

Mark Tupper has the defensive assignments for Illinois: Brian Randle will start on Maurice Ager, James Augustine will get Paul Davis and either Dee Brown or Rich McBride will take Shannon Brown. Tupper is predicting a 71-67 win for the Illini.

Illini Wonk? In my preview for Hoops Futures, I'm picking the Illini 76-67. As Big Ten Wonk has so masterfully shown, the Spartans are having troubles with their defense. On the other hand, the Illini are the second best in the conference, behind only Iowa. I say defense carries them against the Spartans.

What's your prediction? Post it below...if you dare going on the record.
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