College Basketball Odds, Picks, Predictions for Illinois vs. Rutgers (Wednesday, February 16)
Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images. Pictured: Paul Mulcahy (Rutgers)
- Illinois travels to the RAC to take on Rutgers in a potential revenge game for the Scarlet Knights.
- The Illini defeated the Scarlet Knights in the first meeting, but that one was played back in December.
- College basketball betting analyst Anthony Dabbundo breaks down why he's backing the home team in this Big Ten affair.
Illinois vs. Rutgers Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
No team in the entire country had a better week last week than Rutgers, which won three consecutive games — vs. Michigan State and Ohio State on its home floor before going on the road Saturday and winning at Wisconsin.
The Scarlet Knights have played their way into the tournament conversation, and have another chance for a high-profile home win at the RAC Wednesday night when they host Illinois.
The Illini survived a late scare and failed to cover at home against Northwestern in their last time out.
Even though they destroyed Rutgers by 35 in the last meeting, the Scarlet Knights are a much different team now than they were in December.
Rutgers would typically be in a sell-high spot coming off of its best week of the season, but the line is showing very little respect to the improvement of the team, the elite home court at the RAC and the revenge angle here.
As poorly as the first meeting went, this isn’t a terrible matchup for the Scarlet Knights overall, and the interior defense should be able to manage Kofi Cockburn and keep this game competitive.
Illinois’ elite jump shooting from Alfonso Plummer and Jacob Grandison raises the ceiling of the team, but it also can lower its floor on nights when the shots aren’t falling.
Both Plummer and Grandison are 40% 3-point shooters this year, but the Illini have had some clunkers when the shots aren’t falling.
Blowout losses at Purdue, vs. Cincinnati and against Maryland are examples of the Illini missing shots early and fading away late.
And when they’ve matched up with length on the interior that can bother Cockburn, they lose their advantage. Cockburn, for all of his talent and ability, hasn’t been nearly as dominant against teams that can match his size, like Rutgers can.
The numbers would suggest that some defensive regression is coming from the perimeter for the Illini, as well. They rank outside the top 150 in ShotQuality catch and shoot 3s allowed, but haven’t been punished at all in conference play for it.
Opponents are making just 31.4% from beyond the arc in the Big Ten against them, second worst behind only Michigan State — another fortunate team.
For all of the talk of Illinois’ offensive weapons, the Illini are just 32nd in BartTorvik efficiency since the calendar flipped to 2022. The slippage offensively going into a tough road game against an elite Rutgers defense raises some red flags.
The first step toward matching up effectively with the Illini in any game is dueling with Cockburn in the post. If you have to constantly double team him in the post, the Illini have more than enough elite shooting to nail open shots and turn the game into a shootout.
And the Illini are heavily favored to win that battle with the Scarlet Knights.
But Rutgers has length and is the eighth biggest team in the country. The Scarlet Knights can have some issues on the defensive glass because the defense is quite aggressive in forcing turnovers. However, they guard the post well too.
Cockburn managed 13 points on eight shots — a solid game by his standards, but not a dominant one — in the last meeting.
The Scarlet Knights do concede a bunch of open 3s, and that’s a major red flag for this defense in this matchup. But the unit is 48th in the country at defending the rim, per ShotQuality, and ranks 23rd in 2-point field goal defense.
The improvement of Rutgers has closely tracked with improved offense through point guard Paul Mulcahy. Since he’s taken more of the lead guard role from Geo Baker this season, the ball movement has skyrocketed.
Rutgers went from 162nd in assists per field goals made last year all the way up to 12th nationally. It now ranks first in the Big Ten, and Mulcahy himself is 36th in assist rate in all of the NCAA.
Illinois vs. Rutgers Betting Pick
Rutgers’ perimeter defense has been rightly punished this year, and Illinois might be able to do the same.
But teams historically don’t shoot as well at the RAC. It’s what plays into the Scarlet Knights’ elite home court that’s already claimed wins against Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue and Ohio State this season.
Time and time again, Rutgers is undervalued at home. Yet again, it continues to be too big of an underdog.
Instead of selling high, I’m going to continue to ride Rutgers’ improved offense. It’s not elite by any means, but it has improved from 227th in November and December all the way to 87th since conference play began, per BartTorvik.
That’s a credit to Mulcahy and Ron Harper Jr. Both of them should keep the Scarlet Knights in this game at home.
Pick: Rutgers +3 or better
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