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Wisconsin vs. Illinois Basketball Odds & Pick: Bet the Under On Saturday

Wisconsin vs. Illinois Basketball Odds & Pick: Bet the Under On Saturday article feature image

Rey Del Rio/Getty Images. Pictured: Ayo Dosunmu.

  • The potentially Ayo Dosunmu-less Illinois Fighting Illini will travel to Madison on Saturday to take on the Wisconsin Badgers in a Big Ten battle.
  • The Badgers left a lot to be desired offensively in their first game against the Illini, and with Dosunmu's injury, the under could hold even more value.
  • College basketball betting analyst BJ Cunningham explains why he likes the under in Saturday afternoon's matchup below.

Wisconsin vs. Illinois Odds

Illinois Odds
Wisconsin Odds
+142 / -168
Time | TV
Saturday, 2 p.m. ET | ESPN
Odds as of Saturday morning and via FanDuel.

Fifth-ranked Illinois heads to Madison on Saturday for a top-25 showdown with Wisconsin.

Illinois was dealt some bad luck this week as its best player, Ayo Dosunmu, fractured his nose against Michigan State and had to miss Thursday’s win over Nebraska. His status for Saturday is still up in the air at the time of writing. As of Saturday morning, it was confirmed that Dosunmu will not play.

Illinois coach Brad Underwood doesn't sound like he will rush Ayo Dosunmu back from injury. If Dosunmu doesn't play vs. #Badgers it should be noted he had a triple-double in the first meeting. He assisted on five of Cockburn's eight dunks that day.

— Jeff Potrykus (@jaypo1961) February 26, 2021

Dosunmu’s absence will be a crushing blow to Illinois’ chances in Madison because he is its go-to man on offense. Sure, Illinois still has Kofi Cockburn down low, but without Dosunmu, it’s really going to struggle against Wisconsin’s backcourt.

Wisconsin has really struggled against some of the top teams in the country this season, as five of its eight losses have come against teams ranked inside the top 10.

The Badgers were blown out, 75-60, in Champaign only three weeks ago and were terrible offensively, shooting 42% from the field. They’ll need a much better offensive performance in Madison if they want to avoid a sweep at the hands of Illinois.

When Illinois Has the Ball

It’s really hard to put into words how much Dosunmu means to this Illini offense and how crucial his status is to this matchup.

In his last meeting against Wisconsin, he dropped a triple-double on the Badgers with 21 points, 12 rebounds, and 12 assists. He takes almost 32% of Illinois’ shots, and for good reason: He’s hitting over 50% from 2-point range and over 40% from 3.

The scoring load will now fall into the lap of 7-footer Cockburn, who is a matchup problem for any team given the fact that he weighs 285 pounds. Cockburn also is averaging 17.7 points and 10 rebounds per game and went 10-of-13 from the field in the last matchup against Wisconsin, so he will be a problem for the Badgers.

Wisconsin couldn’t shut down Dosunmu and Cockburn in the first matchup, but what it did do a good job of is shutting down everyone else.

The rest of the Illini shot 43% from the field and 31.6% from 3-point range. The Badgers are the third-best defense in the Big Ten, allowing only 0.98 points per possession, per KenPom.  Wisconsin doesn’t have any discernible weaknesses, so if it can keep Dosunmu and Cockburn in check, it may have a shot at knocking off the fifth-ranked Illini.

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When Wisconsin Has the Ball

The Badgers’ offense has been below average in Big Ten play.

They average only 1.01 points per possession and put up only 0.83 points per possession in their loss to Illinois three weeks ago.

The main issue is they are shooting the ball horrendously. Wisconsin is in the bottom half of the Big Ten in both 2-point percentage and 3-point percentage, per KenPom.

Wisconsin also hasn’t been able to get to the free-throw line very often, as it owns the worst free-throw rate in the conference. The puzzling part is when it’s at the free-throw line, it shoots over 76%, so Greg Gard has no doubt made that a point of emphasis for Saturday. The Badgers shot only 11 free throws in Champaign three weeks ago.

Not only is Illinois one of the best offenses in the Big Ten, but it’s also one of the best defenses. The Illini allow only 0.97 points per possession and are almost impossible to score on in the paint.

With a presence like Cockburn in the lane, the Illini allow 45% from 2-point range and 57.9% on shot attempts at the rim, per Hoop-Math.

However, the way to beat this Illinois defense is from behind the arc because it’s allowing 35% from beyond the arc in Big Ten play. Wisconsin went 4-for-24 from 3-point range in the first matchup, so the Badgers are going to have to shoot much better from deep if they want any hope at winning this game.

Betting Analysis & Pick

As mentioned, this game is so dependent on the status of Dosunmu.

Based on my projections he is worth over four points to the spread, so if he’s out, it’s going to be a huge blow for the Illini.

Wisconsin really needs a much better offensive performance than it showed in the first meeting, and I don’t think it’s going to drastically improve against Illinois’ stellar defense even if Dosunmu is out.

I have 134.26 points projected for this game, so I do think there’s some value on under 137.5 points, especially if Dosunmu is out.

Pick: Under 137.5 or better.

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