The Illinois Fighting Illini and Northwestern Wildcats face each other Wednesday night in a battle of Big Ten rivals as both teams continue their tough conference schedules. Both teams are currently 1-1 against Big Ten opponents so far this season, with Illinois recently losing to Purdue and Northwestern getting beat up by then-No. 2 Ohio State.
While Illinois is typically the heavy favorite in these match-ups, Northwestern should actually provide a pretty good fight this year. The Wildcats have struggled against ranked opponents this season, but they've won every other game they've played. Outside of the loss to the Buckeyes and defeats against then-No. 8 Baylor and then-No. 21 Creighton, the Wildcats are 12-0 against all unranked opponents this year.
The Fighting Illini, on the other hand, have struggled of late. They've lost three of their past five games, including losses to unranked opponents from UNLV and Purdue, and needed double-overtime to get ahead of Minnesota. They're still in a solid position with a 12-3 record on the season, but their schedule will get extremely difficult as they face the likes of Ohio State, Michigan, Indiana, Michigan State and Wisconsin two times apiece.
In a highly competitive Big Ten, getting wins against non-elite teams will be key for building up a strong NCAA Tournament resume. In tonight's game between Illinois and Northwestern, both teams will have a chance to get a good win against an unranked opponent.