Penn State vs Illinois Odds, Picks | Target This Total in Champaign
Dustin Satloff/Getty Images. Pictured: Terrence Shannon Jr. of Illinois.
Penn State vs. Illinois Odds
|Penn State Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
The college football regular season might be over, but the Big Ten will continue to deliver at noon on Saturday. Penn State gets the day started in Champaign as it looks to avoid an 0-2 start to conference play.
That may be easier said than done against an Illinois team that boasts one of the best defenses in college basketball.
Brad Underwood and Co. will be back in the State Farm Center for the first time this month after two high-level games on the road. The Illini came up just short against Maryland, 71-66, to open Big Ten play. And things didn't look promising against Texas in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden, as the Illini trailed by as many 10 in the second half.
But a late comeback sent the game to overtime, where Terrence Shannon Jr. put on a clutch display by hitting 3-of-4 from the floor and making all five of his attempts at the line.
The Illini will be the highest KenPom-ranked team the Nittany Lions have seen so far this season. And while they're 0-3 against teams ranked inside the top 75, those three losses have come by a combined 18 points.
Can Penn State avoid losing its third game in a row? Or will the Illini notch their first conference win of the season at home?
The Nittany Lions defense might give the Illini some resistance, but I don't see them having a game-changing effect on a team with the ninth-best scoring margin in the nation.
Penn State's defense hasn't been awful, holding teams to just 41% from the floor. However, the Illini offense is just that good.
PSU's biggest advantage on defense is its ability to control the pace. The Nittany Lions rank 284th when it comes to adjusted tempo. Illinois, meanwhile, ranks inside the top 30 and depends on a high volume of 3-point attempts to bolster its scoring.
I think Penn State can really change this game on the offensive end. The Nittany Lions are best from beyond the arc, hitting 36.9% from deep — the 20th-best 3-point mark in Division I. They're also top-10 when it comes to both attempts and made 3s per game.
The Illinois defense has been great almost everywhere on the floor except the perimeter. Opponents are hitting 30.4% from deep against the Illini. And while slowing the game down could hurt Illinois' offense, the Nittany Lions could be deadly from deep if this game plays out like a track meet.
Turnovers have been an issue for the Illini this season, but I don't expect that to be much of a factor against a Penn State team forcing just 10.1 per game.
Fouling has also been a cause for concern in the Illini's first nine games. Illinois ranks 154th in the nation when it comes to opponent free throw attempts, averaging 17.1 fouls per game so far this season.
And Penn State isn't a team you want to send to the line on a consistent basis. The Nittany Lions are the 37th-best free-throw shooting team in the country, hitting 76.8% from the stripe.
One area in which the Illini shouldn't have any issues against Penn State is on the glass. Illinois ranks in the top 25 in rebounds per game, while Penn State sits outside the top 150.
The Nittany Lions are also one of the worst in the nation when it comes to offensive rebounds, earning a second chance on just 17.4% of their misses.
Penn State vs. Illinois Betting Pick
I expect Illinois to control the tempo of this game with ease.
The Nittany Lions haven't faced a team this season that comes anywhere close to the Illini in terms of pace. However, I'm hesitant to back Illinois due to its foul problems as well as its perimeter defense.
The uptick in tempo should make up for some of the struggles Penn State will have against a stout Illinois defense.
The Nittany Lions have kept it close against elite teams so far this year, and I think that continues against Illinois. That's why I'm betting this game to go over the total at 142 or better.
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