Illinois-Wisconsin Betting Preview: Will the Fighting Illini Continue Their Surge?

Illinois-Wisconsin Betting Preview: Will the Fighting Illini Continue Their Surge? article feature image
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Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Trent Frazier and Brad Underwood

Among the four ranked teams in action within Monday’s college hoops docket, unranked Illinois (10-15, 6-8) — winners of five of their past six games — travels to No. 20 Wisconsin (17-8, 9-5).

The Fighting Illini are one of 38 teams across Division I with at least three Quadrant 1 wins. Although they’d need to win the Big Ten tournament to earn a ticket into March Madness, they’ve developed into one of most dangerous upset-minded programs down the stretch.

Where does the value stand in this matchup? Let’s break it down.


>> All odds as of Sunday night. Download The Action Network App to get real-time NCAAB odds and win probabilities on your bets.


Illinois Fighting Illini at Wisconsin Badgers

  • Spread: Wisconsin -11.5
  • Over/Under: 135
  • Time: 8 p.m. ET
  • TV: Fox Sports 1

The Badgers have failed to cover in consecutive games (MSU, Michigan) after reeling off five straight wins against the spread.

On the flip side, the Illini (11-14 ATS) have covered in three of their past four wins, including an outright victory against the Spartans at home.

In the last matchup between these two schools on Jan. 23, Wisconsin took over in the second half via Nate Reuvers’ 22-point showing, en route to a 12-point victory and cover (-4.5).

The Illini’s offense produced just 0.90 points per possession vs. the sixth-rated Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (88.6 opponents’ points per possession) in the country.

Since then, they’ve averaged 1.07 PPP over their past six games, led by point guard Trent Frazier (14.7 points per game).

Overall, Underwood’s crew snags the league’s sixth-highest scoring rate (53.4%) inside the arc, while Wisconsin has yielded the fourth-highest scoring percentage (53.6%) in that vicinity.

Expect Illinois to sustain its attack from the dribble drive, which Frazier and his backcourt mate Ayo Dosunmu (14.2 ppg) thrive at. Despite the Badgers adding a pair of losses to the Big Ten’s top-two teams, I’m surprised to see the line so high with the Illini’s much-improved offense.

At the other end, Wisconsin runs its unit through the paint, notching the conference’s fourth-highest two-point scoring rate (54.7%). The 6-foot-10 Ethan Happ (18.4 ppg) is the Badgers’ key cog, as he has the fifth-highest possession rate (36.3%) in the country.

Happ wasn’t very effective vs. the Illini in their first meeting because of foul trouble, and it cost the Badgers to the tune of 17 turnovers. Underwood’s bunch is league-average within opponents’ 2-point scoring percentage (51.3%).

Illinois freshman Giorgi Bezhanishvili should be able to keep the Naismith Player of the Year nominee from dominating, and the team’s ball pressure will limit his low-post touches, as well.

If you’re intrigued by the total, Wisconsin should to control the pace, and it utilizes the 14th-lowest Adjusted Tempo (63.6 possessions per 40 minutes) in the country. I’d lean towards the under.

THE PICK: Illinois +11.5