College Basketball Odds & Picks for Illinois vs. Rutgers: Sunday’s Betting Value Lies With Scarlet Knights

College Basketball Odds & Picks for Illinois vs. Rutgers: Sunday’s Betting Value Lies With Scarlet Knights article feature image
Credit:

Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images. Pictured: Ron Harper Jr.

  • The Illinois Fighting Illini will take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in what should be a close Big Ten battle on Sunday afternoon.
  • The Illini have a pair of stars on their roster in Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn, but they may be too reliant on the duo.
  • Tanner McGrath explains why he's rolling with the Scarlet Knights to cover below.

Illinois vs. Rutgers Odds

Illinois Odds -1.5 [BET NOW]
Rutgers Odds +1.5 [BET NOW]
Moneyline -131 / +110 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 141 [BET NOW]
Time Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
TV ESPN2
Odds as of late Sunday morning and via PointsBet, where you can get $250 FREE instantly after signing up AND your bets automatically sync to the Action app.

Sunday’s top-25 matchup features the No. 13 Illinois Fighting Illini traveling to take on the No. 19 Rutgers Scarlet Knights at the RAC in Piscataway.

Illinois enters today’s game at 5-2 with losses to Baylor and Missouri, while Rutgers is 5-0 after a statement road win against Maryland. Both teams are 1-0 in Big Ten play.

The line opened at Rutgers -2 but has since gone down. There are a few important matchups to watch today, but current rosters and recent history shows value on the home team.

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Illinois Fighting Illini

This Illinois team is driven by Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn. They are the heart and soul of the Fighting Illini and the key to the team’s success.

However, they can also be Illinois’ greatest weaknesses. Illinois is often over-reliant on its two stars. Baylor beat Illinois by limiting Cockburn to just seven points on four shots and Dosunmu to just 6-of-18 shooting.

The blueprint for beating Illinois is limiting those two as much as possible and putting pressure on their bench, which has been playing well, for the record. A well-rounded defensive team can throw multiple bodies at those two and restrict Illinois’ offensive output.

However, it’s important to note that the Illinois offense has been spectacular this season. The Fighting Illini are sixth in the country in eFG% (60.1%) and 10th in 3-point shooting (43.2% on 17.9 attempts per game).

Additionally, Illinois is an excellent rebounding team. It is pulling down 44.7 total rebounds per game, which ranks 14th in the nation. In particular, Cockburn has been productive on the boards, averaging 9.4 boards per game.

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Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Rutgers’ road game against Maryland was a must-win if the Scarlet Knights were to establish themselves as a top-25 team. Steve Pikiell’s team won by 14 and proved it belongs in the rankings.

However, Illinois is not Maryland. The Terps lost their guard-big combo from last season in Jalen Smith and Anthony Cowan, while Illinois has one of the pairs in the country in Dosunmu and Cockburn.

The Scarlet Knight’s success is built on their defense. Per KenPom, they rank 11th in defensive efficiency, and opponents are shooting just 42.6% from 2-point range and 28.3% from 3-point range.

Ron Harper Jr. has quickly become Rutgers’ best player, having taken his game to a different level this season. After averaging 12.1 points and 5.8 rebounds per game last season, he’s currently averaging 23.2 points and 7.0 rebounds per game.

Harper is also Rutgers’ most important player. In its game against Maryland, Rutgers gave up a 15-4 run to end the first half trailing by one point. Harper then scored 19 of his 27 total points in the second half, carrying Rutgers to a 14-point win. Whenever the Scarlet Knights needed a bucket, the ball went to Harper.

Rutgers also shares the ball well. It averages 19 assists per game, which ranks 23rd in the nation, and 60.2% of the Scarlet Knights’ total field goals made are assisted. Senior point guard Jacob Young paces the team in assists, averaging six per game.

Finally, the return of senior guard Geo Baker is welcomed by Scarlet Knights fans. After missing almost four full games due to injury, Baker came off the bench against Maryland to score 13 points on 5 of 13 shooting in 28 minutes. As a starter last season, Baker averaged 12.2 points and 4.1 assists per game.

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Betting Analysis & Pick

There are two matchups that will decide the outcome of this game.

First: the Rutgers defense against Illinois’ two-headed monster. The Scarlet Knights will have to contain Dosunmu and Cockburn.

However, I believe Rutgers is up to the task. The Scarlet Knights are an extremely adept defensive team and have the personnel to defend Cockburn on the interior and Dosunmu on the perimeter.

Second, Harper’s offense against the Illinois defense will be crucial to the outcome. When Harper plays well, Rutgers wins.

Syracuse is ranked 21st in defensive efficiency this season, three spots ahead of Illinois. Harper shredded that Syracuse defense for 26 points on 9-of-13 shooting with seven rebounds. The Scarlet Knights won by 10.

In Rutgers’ most recent game against Illinois, on Feb. 15th, Harper scored 27 points on 11 of 14 shooting with six rebounds and two steals. Rutgers won by 15.

Given how he’s playing this season, I’ll take my chances with Harper today.

Finally, recent history favors Rutgers in this spot. Per our SportsInsight Database, Rutgers is 13-6-2 against the spread as a home favorite since the 2017-18 season, yielding a 28% return on investment. Additionally, Rutgers has covered the spread the last three times it has played Illinois.

I’m banking on Harper and the Scarlet Knights’ defense to outplay Illinois by playing Rutgers -1.

Pick: Rutgers -1 (up to -2.5).

[Bet Rutgers now at PointsBet and get $250 FREE.]