What a crazy time for Big 10 basketball. Nearly all of the top teams from previous seasons have been passed and there is a new sheriff in town.

The Illinois Fighting Illini have taken a strong grip on first place in the Big 10 and they truly look like the team to beat.

In this win streak they have achieved road wins against Wisconsin, Michigan and Purdue. While those three teams are not as strong as they usually are, it is still impressive for this young Illinois squad.

On Thursday night, they will be on their home floor taking on the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Minnesota is coming off losing two of their last three, but still have a strong team nonetheless.

It will be a heated matchup and we got all of your coverage here to help you pick out your best bets. Illinois is -5 in this game at home.

A one-man army on the backs of Oturu

Daniel Oturu is a beast in the making for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. His dominance down low is the focal point of their offense, and he has taken a massive leap in his sophomore season.

Shooting nearly 60% from the field and a respectable 30% from three, Oturu can truly do it all. Throughout this season so far, he is averaging 19.7 points per game and 11.3 rebounds per game.

With a 6’10”, 240 pound frame, Oturu is someone to look out for in this upcoming NBA draft. The last piece he will really need is a little more of an outside game, but right now he is a monster on the block.

Fortunately for Illinois, they have their own center down low to matchup with Oturu. Kofi Cockburn is a standout freshman sitting at a whopping 7 feet tall and 290 pounds.

This will be the matchup to keep an eye on and will definitely be the best big men matchup you will see this season.

A season of progress for the Fighting Illini

What a difference a year makes. Last season, Illinois made enough noise to get people excited, but ultimately fell short of their expectations.

This year, they are surpassing everyone’s expectations and making a name for their program and players.

Led by Kofi Cockburn and Ayo Dosunmu, their offense is a force to be reckoned with. Dosunmu came up clutch the other night against Michigan with his last second shot to put his team ahead.

I really love the balance that Illinois has attacking the defense. They can beat you up down low with Cockburn, drive and penetrate with Dosunmu or kick out to shooters like Trent Frazier and Alan Griffin on the wings.

The Fighting Illini train is rolling, though they still have to prove that they can beat Michigan State if they want to truly secure the Big Ten title this season.

Either way, everything is clicking for Illinois, and they come into this Thursday night game as hot as any team in the country.

With a chance at a conference title, Illinois will be licking their chops. It’s time to respect their program as one of the best in the country.

Minnesota Golden Gophers @ Illinois Fighting Illini Betting Preview

With how good Illinois has been all season and the fact that this game will be played on their home floor, it is no surprise that they are favored in this game at – .

Minnesota has got a lot to love about their team, but I really think that the guard play of Illinois will win this game. Cockburn and Oturu should cancel each other out.

Take the Fighting Illini in this contest and make sure that you are locking in your bets of -5 before Thursday night’s tip-off!

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Rodney is currently the Content Manager and Director of Business Development at Knup Solutions. Rodney has lived and died by St. Louis Sports since a young ago. Also, Kansas Jayhawks basketball fan. Always down to have an intelligent, and controversially sports conversation. Host of Peoria Fantasy Focus, and has served as PA Announcer for Peoria Chiefs Baseball. Father of 3, youth baseball coach and President of the Youth Basketball Association.