College Basketball Odds & Pick for Wisconsin vs. Illinois: Bet Badgers to Cover as Road Underdogs

College Basketball Odds & Pick for Wisconsin vs. Illinois: Bet Badgers to Cover as Road Underdogs article feature image
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Mitchell Layton/Getty Images. Pictured: Wisconsin Badgers huddle.

  • The Wisconsin Badgers travel to Champaign to take on the Illinois Fighting Illini on Saturday afternoon.
  • The Illini have won five straight, but are coming off a sub-par overtime win over Indiana on Tuesday.
  • Read Pat McMahon's analysis of the matchup below, including betting odds and predictions.

Wisconsin vs. Illinois Odds


Wisconsin Odds +4
Illinois Odds -4
Moneyline +155 / -185
Over/Under 135.5
Time | TV 2:30 p.m. ET | FOX
Odds updated Saturday at 12:30 p.m. ET and via PointsBet.

Illinois and Wisconsin meet in Champaign on Saturday afternoon for a monster Big Ten showdown.

The 19th-ranked Badgers are coming off back-to-back games against Penn State, splitting the series with each team taking a game on their home court.

Wisconsin has fallen off the national radar after a couple of bad losses, but are still 8-4 in the Big Ten and within striking distance of first place. This game offers them a huge opportunity to move up in the standings and stamp a signature road win on their resume.

The 12th-ranked Illini (12-5, 8-3) survived a scare on Tuesday at Indiana, defeating the Hoosiers in overtime.

That win, paired with an Iowa loss on Thursday, put them alone in second place in the conference standings. The Illini are looking to build their case for a top seed in the NCAA Tournament with their fifth straight win on Saturday.

The Matchup

When Wisconsin has the ball

In typical Wisconsin fashion, the Badgers are deliberate yet effective on offense. They currently rank 328th in tempo, but 25th in offensive efficiency, per KenPom.

Wisconsin is one of the most experienced teams in the nation, with six of its top eight players in their fourth or fifth year of college. It also received an injection of youth this season to round out their rotation, with freshman Tyler Wahl and Jonathan Davis playing big roles.

The Badgers have a balanced scoring attack, with guard D’Mitrik Trice (13.3 points per game) and forward/center Micah Potter (12.3) leading the way and averaging double figures.

Three other seniors — Nate Reuvers, Aleem Ford, and Brad Davison — are right behind them, all averaging more than nine points per contest.

They’re a strong outside-shooting team, connecting on 38% of their 3-point shots. There’s no glaring weakness in this Wisconsin offense, and it plays unselfishly, with everyone on the court being capable passers. The Badgers boast an impressive 1.5 assist-to-turnover ratio, the 14th-best mark in the nation.

The one issue the Badgers have is a lack of explosive scorers.

Trice is the only player who can consistently beat defenders off the dribble. This can be problematic against more athletic teams that play strong defense.

Take Wisconsin’s 23-point loss to Michigan, for example. The Wolverines have better athletes at most positions and are disciplined in their defensive assignments. With Michigan avoiding defensive mistakes, the Badgers struggled to get separation and consistent good looks.

This resulted in several long scoring droughts and the Badgers finishing with just 54 points on 31% shooting for the game.

The Illini have a very tough defense, ranking 16th in defensive efficiency. They’re allowing fewer than 70 points per game and 41% shooting from the field. They’re fairly average when it comes to defending the 3-point line, surrendering 34.4% from deep.

What Illinois does best on the defensive end is clean up the glass.

The Illini rank in the top 10 nationally in rebounding margin, with an advantage of nearly nine per game. If teams want to beat Illinois, they better shoot the ball well, because odds are they won’t get many second-chance opportunities.

When Illinois has the ball

The Illini rank eighth in offensive efficiency, and it’s easy to understand why. Brad Underwood put together a roster that contains all the necessary pieces required for a great offense, and they simply have a lot of shot-makers.

Illinois’ shooting splits are immaculate: It’s 50% from the field, 40% from 3, and 70% from the line.

The offense starts in the backcourt, where Underwood has the luxury of rolling out two really good guards who have thrived on the floor together.

Ayo Dosumnu is putting up All-American numbers this season, averaging 21.2 points and 4.6 assists per game while hitting better than 41% of his 3-point attempts. F

reshman Andre Curbelo is a terrific playmaker and passer, tying Dosunmu for the team-high mark in assists and also chipping in nine points in just 21.5 minutes per game.

The Illini can do serious damage on the inside as well, thanks to the tandem of Kofi Cockburn and Giorgi Bezhanishvili.

Cockburn is one of the strongest players in college basketball and very tough to contain on the inside. He’s also a potential All-American, averaging a double-double with 16.8 points and 10.2  rebounds per game.

Bezhanishvili isn’t on the court with Cockburn very often due to potential defensive liabilities, but he’s one of the best backup options in the country and provides great energy off the bench.

Illinois has a number of quality shooters on the wing, the perfect complement to its elite point guards and big man.

Trent Frazier (40.2%) and Adam Miller (34.4%) both take and make a lot of 3s. Da’Monte Williams doesn’t shoot it nearly as often but boasts an incredible 59.5% average, knocking down 22 of his 37 attempts on the year.

With so many capable scoring options, the Illini don’t have many bad nights offensively. They are coming off one of their worst performances of the season at Indiana on Tuesday, however.

They managed only 68 points in regulation on just 38.6% shooting from the field. It was the second time this season the Hoosiers’ defense held the Illini to under 70 points in 40 minutes.

Tuesday’s subpar performance by Illinois raises concern heading into this matchup. The Badgers have the eighth-most efficient defense in the nation, and the second-best in the Big Ten, trailing only Michigan. They’re very disciplined and tough to break down off the dribble.

Dosunmu and Cockburn are two of the most difficult covers in the country, but Wisconsin could fare well defending both by committee.

Potter is an excellent post defender and will have some help containing Cockburn with Reuvers ready to step in. We’ll likely see a number of defenders rotated on Dosunmu as well to try and throw him off his game. Expect Trice, Davis, and Davison to all get a crack at slowing Dosunmu down.

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Betting Analysis & Pick

Given how efficient these teams have been on both ends of the floor, this game should be played at a very high level.

As great as Illinois has looked recently, I think it’s a little overvalued in this spot. One of the few weaknesses of this Illini team comes in the turnover department. Illinois is coughing it up more than 13 times per game and has a negative turnover margin (-1.4 per game) on the season.

Wisconsin, on the other hand, plays a very clean game. It boasts a +2.4 turnover margin, and if it’s able to win the turnover battle and control the tempo, it’ll have a good chance to pick off the Illini on the road.

Illinois dropped two home games outright in January, so it’s by no means invincible in the State Farm Center.

I also like that the Badgers have fallen out of the public’s eye in the last few weeks or so, while Illinois’ current public perception is about the highest it’s been all season.

It’s too early to tell at the time of this writing on Friday night, but the Illini will likely be a very public side on Saturday. I’ll gladly go against the public to back a team as experienced and efficient as the Badgers in an underdog role.

Pick: Wisconsin +4 (down to +3).

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