Big Ten Tournament Odds & Picks: Cases For Betting Illinois, Iowa & Penn State
Michael Hickey/Getty Images. Pictured: Ayo Dosunmu.
There’s still a long list of conferences yet to crown champions, with 15 championship games on Saturday followed by five more before the NCAA Tournament bracket is released on Sunday.
In order to help you navigate the jam-packed week of college basketball, our analysts have come together to deliver their top picks to win each of the remaining Power 6 and high-major conference tournaments.
You’ll find their favorite outright bets for the Big Ten Tournament below. Be sure to also check out their picks for the Pac-12 and more conference tournaments here.
Big Ten Tournament
Shane McNichol: Illinois +375
In a tournament as vast as the 14-team Big Ten bracket, it’s easiest to boil down to the teams with a leg up on the competition. The top four seeds receive a “double-bye” and need to win only three times to win the conference tournament.
Of those four, Illinois is the best positioned to capitalize and earn the crown this week. The Illini’s quarterfinal matchup will come against the winner of Rutgers and Indiana, both of whom are limping into the conference tournament.
Illinois is also sharing its half of the bracket with third-seeded Iowa, which may be without Joe Wieskamp, who was injured in Sunday’s win over Wisconsin. In total, Illinois has not lost a game to any team in its half of the conference tournament bracket since turning the calendar to 2021.
Michigan is the favorite at +175 but has lost twice in March already. One of those losses was a rout at the hands of Illinois without Ayo Dosunmu in the lineup. Dosunmu returned for Illinois’ win at Ohio State Saturday and put up 19 points and three assists.
Nabbing the Illini at more than double the price of Michigan is too good to pass up. Illinois is poised to continue playing its best basketball and earn a top seed in the Big Dance.
Kyle Remillard: Illinois +375
Illinois enters the Big Ten Tournament with a double-bye and is the hottest team in the conference.
The Fighting Illini have won 11 of their last 12 conference games, losing only to Michigan State, which has been playing better the last few weeks.
During that span, Illinois has averaged 77.8 points per game while allowing just 67.8. The Illini lead the conference in field goal percentage, hitting 54.6% of their shots from the field in conference play.
They have two potential lottery picks in their starting lineup in Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn. Those two are quite possibly the most dominant 1-2 punch in the country, with Dosunmu averaging 20.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 5.2 assists. Cockburn is a 7-foot center who puts up 17.3 points with 10.0 rebounds and is virtually unstoppable when he gets the ball inside the paint.
Even though Michigan seems to be “America’s Team” as of late, the +175 price is way too short on it.
Illinois dismantled it by 23 without Dosunmu, and the Wolverines ended the season losing to Michigan State by 14.
The +375 on Illinois presents the most value in the conference, as it only has to win three games to be crowned Big Ten champs with the double-bye and a relatively easy road to get there.
BJ Cunningham: Iowa +425
Iowa has been drastically improving on the defensive end of the floor over the second half of the season.
That’s huge because its offense is already one of the best in the country, averaging 1.17 points per possession. Over their last nine games, the Hawks have held their opponents under 1.00 points per possession in seven of those games. Their offense has stayed consistent, as only Gonzaga has a better offensive efficiency nationally, per KenPom.
The only team that actually blew out the Hawks this season is Michigan, and it’s on the other side of the bracket. Iowa took Illinois to overtime in their only meeting in Champaign, so it’s capable of beating the Illini.
Now, this is all dependent on the status of Joe Wieskamp, who is the Hawkeyes’ second-leading scorer. He went down with an ankle injury in the first half of the Wisconsin game Sunday and did not return. Fran McCaffery confirmed this week that Wieskamp did, in fact, sprain his ankle. If he is unable to play in the Big Ten Tournament, I would not play this.
Additionally, KenPom gives Iowa a 21.9% chance to win the Big Ten Tournament. Implied odds of +425 means 19.05%, so you’re getting 2.85% of value on Iowa at +425.
Pick: Iowa +425
Mike Calabrese: Penn State +10000
Over the years, the Big Ten Tournament has been pretty chalky.
Since its inception in 1998, the conference tournament has gone to the top seed nine times (41%). That being said, we’ve seen four straight Big Ten Tournament semifinals that have featured either a seven or an eight seed.
Penn State, the 11th seed in this year’s tournament, would need a miracle to make the finals, but a trip to the semis isn’t as crazy as it sounds for Jim Ferry and company.
Let’s start by analyzing the Nittany Lions’ road.
They open in the first round against Nebraska, a team they split with on the year. The Cornhuskers have lost seven of their last nine games straight up and are one of worst defensive teams in major college basketball. Should PSU best Nebraska, they’d draw a Wisconsin team it beat by 10 in Happy Valley.
While not quite as extreme as Nebraska, the Badgers are mired in a losing streak of their own, having dropped 6-of-8. Sensing a theme here?
If you can score a win over Nebraska and an upset of Wisconsin, which the Nitts have proven capable of beating this season, you’re holding a valuable future at 100-1.
Hedging then becomes pretty straightforward against a Luka Garza-led Iowa squad. I won’t take this line of thinking much further and mention that Penn State was tied with Iowa with nine to play in Iowa City.
That would be taking this dream too far, but you don’t have to squint to see a few of these Big Ten squads falling on their keys against a PSU team that has won three of its last four and has proven highly capable against Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Ohio State this season.
Pick: Penn State +10000