Maryland vs. Illinois Odds & Pick: How to Back the Red-Hot Illini
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images. Pictured: Illinois Fighting Illini star Kofi Cockburn.
- Illinois is red-hot, having won five straight games in the Big Ten entering its matchup with Maryland.
- The Terps, meanwhile, have lost three straight and are heavy underdogs against the No. 4 team in the country.
- Mike Randle explains why he's not deterred by the big spread and is backing the Fighting Illini.
Maryland vs. Illinois Odds
No. 12 Illinois has dominated Big Ten play, winning four straight games by an average of 15 points per game. This includes a 17-point win at Penn State and a 25-point shellacking at Northwestern.
Maryland limps into this game on a three-game losing streak in the Big Ten, including two double-digit home losses. Can the Terrapins get right against an Illinois team that they have beaten in five of the past six meetings?
The Fighting Illini have been on a roll, featuring a balanced scoring attack on offense. Center Kofi Cockburn (17.1 points per game, 10.1 rebounds) has scored double figures in eight consecutive games, including three straight double-doubles. Even more impressive is that the 7-foot sophomore is yet to foul out of any game this season.
Cockburn is balanced by a four-guard alignment that has Illinois shooting a blistering 41.7% from 3-point range (second best in the nation). In the Illini’s most recent 81-56 win at Northwestern, they were 11 of 27 (40.7%) from 3-point range.
Junior guard Ayo Dosunmu is playing at an All-American level. The 6-foot-5 junior is ninth in the country in scoring (22.3 points) while adding 6.8 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game. Freshman Adam Miller has 24 points and six made 3-pointers over the past two games, while senior Trent Frazier fills up the box score while playing more than 32 minutes per game.
The matchup with Illinois couldn’t be any worse for Maryland. The Illini are a carbon copy of the Iowa team that just beat the Terrapins by 22 on their home floor. Maryland had no answer for Luka Garza (24 points) and allowed the hot shooting Hawkeyes to make 50% (13 of 26) of their attempts from beyond the arc.
Terrapins head coach Mark Turgeon tries to force teams to shoot from the outside, but that strategy presents a problem against a skilled Illinois team. Maryland has allowed opponents to make 3-pointers at a 36% rate, ranking just 266th in the country. They also bypass offensive rebounds (261st in the country) in favor of limiting transition opportunities.
Illinois ranks among the best rebounding teams in the country especially on the defensive end. The Illini rank seventh overall with 31.3 defensive rebounds per game. They also grab over 11 offensive rebounds per game, putting even more pressure on the undersized Maryland lineup.
The Terps will need a strong game out of 6-foot-7 forward Donta Scott, who leads the team with 7.5 rebounds per game. Their next best rebounder is 6-foot-6 guard Aaron Wiggins (5.2 rebounds), who is needed to limit the outside-shooting opportunities of Dosunmu, Frazier and Miller.
Betting Analysis & Pick
This is a battle between two teams headed in opposite directions. The Terrapins jumped out to a 17-7 lead against Iowa before getting buried over the remaining 35 minutes. Illinois provides the same type of challenge, except this game is on the road.
The Terrapins have dominated this matchup in recent history, but the Illini now have the better team. The Terrapins will struggle to stop Cockburn, while also allowing too many 3-point shots to one of the best shooting teams in the country. Illinois has scored 80 or more points four times in the past six games, and this should be the fifth in seven.
I’m backing the home Illini, and laying the points against a Maryland team headed in the wrong direction.
Pick: Illinois -10.5 | Play up to Illinois -11