#3 Illinois vs Rutgers – Big 10 Tournament Quarter-Finals: Preview & Best Bets – 3/12/2021

Spread: Illinois -7.5

Over/Under: 137

March 11th 2021. 5:30 PM  Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana

Illinois Fighting Illini (20-6, 16-4)

The Fighting Illini are coming into this one red hot, winning 11 out of their last 12 games, including having the best week of any team in the country last week defeating two top 7 opponents (Michigan and Ohio State) on the road. This run has earned the respect of the AP poll and has the Illini squarely ranked as the number 3 team in the country with a very likely earn a #1 seed in the Big Dance. In my opinion in order to clinch the 1 seed without questions, Illinois must make it farther in the Big 10 tournament than at least Michigan or Iowa. That road starts tonight in Indianapolis as U of I takes on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Illinois only played Rutgers one other time this season way back on December 20th in Piscataway as the Scarlet Knights pulled the 3 point upset at the RAC. Illinois obviously has been playing much better basketball since that game and in even better news they have their unanimous All Big 10 superstar Ayo Dosunmu back from injury. In his only game back since the injury vs Ohio State, Dosunmu picked up right where he left off with 19 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists. 

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (15-10, 10-10)

Rutgers advances to the quarter finals after taking down the Hoosiers last night by the final score of 61-50. The Scarlet Knights most impressed me with their perimeter defense in that game as they held IU to a measly 2 for 16 from beyond the arc (12.5%). They also did a nice job on the glass as they won the rebounding battle 41-33. Offensively it was a very balanced scoring effort for the Scarlet Knights as they had 4 of their 5 starters in double figures. Both Ron Harper Jr and Myles Johnson had double doubles with 13 points and 11 rebounds for Harper and 10 points, 13 rebounds for Johnson. Rutgers will need to find more than 61 points of offense to keep up with the Illini but if they can match the defensive effort that they imposed on Indiana last night, they might have a chance to pull the upset.

Prediction

I think Illinois is the easy straight up pick in this one as they are much better than Rutgers and they have been playing much better basketball down the stretch. Illinois has gone 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games. U of I also owns the head to head matchup as of late with the Illini winning 8 of the last 11 meetings vs Rutgers. I think there is a good chance that Illinois should cover the 7.5 points but that seems but I would feel a lot more comfortable if it could sneak down to 6 or less which won’t happen. So looking around at the other bets, the over 137 seems like a good bet to me… and to a lot of other people also, I don’t like to use public perception all the time with betting but a whopping 96% of the bets are going on the over. To back that stat up Illinois has gone over in 4 of their last 6 games overall and the total has gone over in 5 of the last 6 games between these two teams. I think Illinois will win this game easily if you want to stick them in a ML parlay with someone else because the -350 is a little steep. I do like the over but the price is getting driven up by the public. So for my best bet I will go with a safer bet I would go with the safer play. Tease Illinois down to -2.5 and the over down to 132. As a bonus bet I also would play Illinois teased down to -2.5 with Wisconsin teased up to +9.5

Matthew’s college basketball record 20/21: 14-9


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