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Illinois vs. Northwestern Odds, Picks | College Basketball Betting Guide

Illinois vs. Northwestern Odds, Picks | College Basketball Betting Guide article feature image

Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images. Pictured: Matthew Mayer (Illinois)

  • Illinois and Northwestern go head-to-head in a Big Ten duel on Wednesday evening.
  • Skyy Clark is banged up and may be out, but this could be a positive for the Illini in the short term.
  • D.J. James breaks down the matchup and offers up a best bet.

Illinois vs. Northwestern Odds

Wednesday, Jan. 4
9 p.m. ET
Big Ten Network
Illinois Odds
-120o / -102u
Northwestern Odds
-120o / -102u
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute college basketball odds here.

The Illinois Fighting Illini and Northwestern Wildcats meet in Evanston for what should be an interesting rivalry game. Last year, this game came down to the wire, with Illinois winning narrowly by three.

Northwestern has looked much more polished than last year’s team, even with the loss of Ryan Young to Duke.

That said, this team has not played a very tough schedule. Sure, the Wildcats' strength of schedule does rank 194th in the NCAA while Illinois’ ranks 188th; however, Illinois has played seven top-90 KenPom teams while the Cats have only taken on five.

In terms of quality opponents, Northwestern has only beaten a Malik Hall-less Michigan State team and Liberty. The Wildcats' best game came in a one-point rock fight against Auburn, and they lost by double digits to Pittsburgh and Ohio State.

Illinois has not played necessarily well, either. The Illini did beat UCLA, Syracuse and Texas early on, but they dropped what should have been winnable games to Maryland, Penn State and Missouri.

The result on Wednesday night will likely depend on which Illinois team shows up.

There's a chance Skyy Clark could be sidelined again for the Illini, but as a shoot-first point guard, that may help in the short term. Sencire Harris and Jayden Epps have been a boost at the guard position for the Illini.

They should help push Brad Underwood and company back into the win column.

Illinois Fighting Illini

Illinois is the true Jekyll and Hyde team of the NCAA. No one knows which team will appear in a given game.

One of the reasons is the Illini's proclivity to turn the ball over. They rank 306th in offensive turnover rate at just over 21%. This might be the one drawback of betting Illinois on Wednesday because Northwestern ranks 29th in turnover rate defensively at 23.3%.

The reason Clark’s absence may not hurt as much is he owns a 28%+ turnover rate, along with Coleman Hawkins. The Illini need Hawkins’ defensive prowess in the lineup, so Epps’ turnover rate of 17% and Harris’ of 13.8% will surely help mitigate this issue.

If Clark plays, expect his minutes to be limited. It seems Underwood is finally giving Epps and Harris more tick based on their usage against Bethune-Cookman.

Now, Illinois has a major edge in this game offensively. It shoots 58.1% on 2-pointers and 33% from deep. However, Epps, Harris, Matthew Mayer and Clark (if he plays) all shoot 35%+.

Terrence Shannon Jr. is only shooting 33%, but he shot nearly 39% last season at Texas Tech. These numbers should positively regress as the season continues.

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Northwestern Wildcats

Northwestern holds opponents to 39.1% inside the arc, but it ranks 123rd in defensive 3-point percentage at 32.3%, similar to Illinois’ season average.

Around 35% of Illinois’ points have come from beyond the arc, so expect the Illini to exploit this perimeter defensive issue for NU.

Offensively, Northwestern has had its struggles. As much as it has a phenomenal defensive approach, it ranks 196th in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency.

The Wildcats shoot 30.9% from deep and 44.2% on 2s. 36% of their offense has come from 3-point range, while nearly 20% has come from the strike because they shoot a collective 75% from there.

Photo by CBB Analytics

Illinois, similarly, does not guard the arc as well, but this does not necessarily take into account when Harris plays more often. He should be able to limit Boo Buie if matched up with him. Shannon or Mayer will get Chase Audige.

Given these matchups, Illinois has the edge. Audige is the more efficient 3-point shooter at a touch over 35%, but he and Buie have the tendency to chuck. Against Ohio State, the two combined for 5-of-19 from outside the arc.

This will not cut it with no inside attack.

Illinois vs. Northwestern Betting Pick

Northwestern has a great defense, but its numbers are inflated against poorer teams. Meanwhile, Illinois has shown it can defeat the best in the nation.

The Illini can also lose to anyone if they do not adjust. However, expect Underwood to have the team ready to go for this game.

Illinois has a tremendous edge offensively and should use it.

Even if Clark plays, his minutes will likely be split more with Epps and Harris than they were before in order to limit turnovers.

Illinois should pull this out by at least one possession.

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