College Basketball Odds, Picks, Predictions for Illinois vs. Marquette: Why to Fade Home Underdog
Justin Casterline/Getty Images. Pictured: Jacob Grandison.
- Illinois travels to Marquette to face the Golden Eagles as part of the Gavitt Tipoff Games between the Big Ten and Big East.
- The Fighting Illini cruised to their first two wins while the Golden Eagles only beat SIUE and New Hampshire by a combined 16 points.
- Tanner McGrath offers up his top selection for the duel.
Illinois vs. Marquette Odds
-120o / +100u
-120o / +100u
When Illinois and Marquette tip off Monday night, it’ll mark the start of the Gavitt Tipoff Games. That means we get four straight nights of Big Ten vs. Big East action. Yum.
Believe it or not, the Illini and the Golden Eagles haven’t matched up in almost 30 years.
Marquette plays @IlliniMBB in the Gavitt Tipoff Games on Monday.
The teams haven't met since Dec. 7, 1993, with #mubb earning a 74-65 win over the No. 16 Fighting Illini at the Bradley Center.
Here are the front pages from the two MKE newspapers the day after the game: pic.twitter.com/umETvzFLgo
— Ben Steele (@BenSteeleMJS) November 14, 2021
Obviously, a lot has changed since December 1993. But the most recent news includes Ayo Dosunmu graduating to the NBA and the Shaka Smart era beginning in Milwaukee.
Both teams are 2-0 entering this matchup, although the visitor is the better team. As a result, Illinois is laying 8.5 points on the road.
Unfortunately, we won’t get Kofi Cockburn back for this game. He’ll be serving the third of his three-game suspension for selling Illinois apparel back in June.
The Illini were +700 to win the Big Ten in the preseason, and I believe that seriously undervalues the Illini.
Last season, it sometimes felt as if Illinois was over-reliant on the two-headed monster of Dosunmu and Cockburn. But the talent and depth of the roster — then, as well as now — extend much further than them.
For example, Coleman Hawkins has stepped up in Cockburn’s absence. He’s recorded 30 points, 20 rebounds, and seven assists through Illinois’ first two games. He’s been so electric, that he currently ranks seventh in KenPom’s Player of the Year rankings.
Through two games, rising star Coleman Hawkins is averaging:
15 PPG, 10 RPG, 3.5 APG on 53 FG%
Granted this is against lower comp and without Kofi, but I have to imagine NBA scouts will drool over him soon enough.
At 6’11”, he makes plays like this👇
— #11 Fighting Illini (@TheIlliniFN) November 13, 2021
When Dosunmu went down with an injury late last season, the Illini proceeded to throttle both Wisconsin and Michigan on the road.
Alongside Cockburn, the backcourt duo of Trent Frazier and Andre Curbelo stepped up in Dosunmu’s absence. Frazier shouldered more of the scoring load while Curbelo became the dominant ball-handler. Both executed their jobs to perfections and led the team to wins.
My point is, I believe the world is exaggerating the importance of Dosunmu’s departure. Brad Underwood’s squad is incredibly talented, led by three returning starters who are all elite at their position, and it plays efficiently at both ends of the floor.
I think Illinois could be undervalued all season long.
Last season made it very clear that the Markus Howard era is over. In three seasons with Howard running the point, the Eagles finished with a top-15 offensive efficiency margin three times. But the offense dropped to 94th without him.
Well, Marquette dismissed Steve Wojciechowski, and whatever remnants of the Howard-led teams left soon after.
Smart is a good coach, but he has a steep uphill battle. The Golden Eagles return zero starters, 19.8% of their minutes from last season, and the coach will be forced with replacing:
- 82% of last season’s points
- 79% of last season’s rebounds
- 79% of last season’s 3-pointers
So, where would you start?
Most likely, Smart will rely upon returning center Justin Lewis and Maryland star transfer Darryl Morsell. The two have combined for 52% of the shots through the Golden Eagles’ first two games.
I’m not expecting that to change, as the rest of this roster is bare bones.
Something to keep an eye on is pace. Smart’s Texas teams finished outside the top-200 in adjusted tempo in five of his six seasons. Meanwhile, his VCU teams finished inside the top-100 in four of his six seasons with the Rams.
Through two games with Marquette, the team ranks 67th in adjusted tempo and fourth in average length of possession. It’s a small sample size, but perhaps Smart will revert to a much-more up-tempo offense.
Illinois vs. Marquette Betting Pick
As I mentioned, I believe Illinois is undervalued. The Illini have been discounted this season because of the absence of their two best players from last season.
However, Underwood’s squad isn’t going to see as much of a drop-off as the public — or Vegas — might think. Illinois is going to have an incredible season, and the Illini already rank fourth in KenPom adjusted efficiency behind the most efficient defense.
Illinois is 1-1 against the spread (ATS), but its win was beating Arkansas State by 39 as 16.5-point favorites, while its loss was beating Jackson State by 24 as 24.5-point favorites.
Meanwhile, Smart’s Golden Eagles failed to cover against New Hampshire and SIU Edwardsville, winning both games by single digits.
Not only is Smart acclimating himself to a new place and new system, so is his entire team. That’s going to be tough on Marquette in the early season.
While it pains me to fade a home underdog, I think Illinois rolls in this one. I’m not going to play them at any number worse than this, however.