Wisconsin vs. Illinois Betting Odds, Prediction: Illini to Win Big

Wisconsin vs. Illinois Betting Odds, Prediction: Illini to Win Big article feature image

Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images. Pictured: Sencire Harris (Illinois)

Wisconsin vs. Illinois Odds

Saturday, Jan. 7
1:30 p.m. ET
Wisconsin Odds
-114o / -105u
Illinois Odds
-118o / -105u
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute college basketball odds here.

Two teams trending in the opposite direction meet on Saturday afternoon as Illinois looks to rebound against No. 14 Wisconsin.

The Fighting Illini have dropped all three Big Ten games this season, but return to State Farm Center looking for a much-needed conference win against the Badgers.

Wisconsin on the other hand has won six straight — all three Big Ten games — and staved off an upset-hungry Minnesota on Tuesday night.

Can Illinois defend its home court and bounce back against Wisconsin, or will the Badgers continue to rise up the top 25 rankings?

Wisconsin Badgers

Wisconsin is red hot as Big Ten play fully ensues. It enters this one on a six-game win streak, with victories against Marquette, Maryland and Iowa in the process.

But this is a team that's escaped danger game in and game out.

The Badgers have won in overtime twice and barely took down Minnesota at home. Regression could be in the works for a Wisconsin team that is 20th in 3-point shooting.

Chucky Hepburn hasn't missed a beat in his sophomore season and is shooting 50.9% from beyond the arc. Freshman Connor Essegian and Wofford transfer Max Klesmit have chipped in with hot shooting.

Like his offenses of years past, Greg Gard has his team running at a snail's pace, and the Badgers rarely make mistakes. They're a methodical offense that's 331st in tempo and ninth in turnover rate.

The offense runs through senior Tyler Wahl. He's the leading scorer (13.2) and second in rebounds (6.4). The 6-foot-9 forward is used on 31% of possessions while on the floor and sits inside the top 100 in fouls draw per 40 minutes. He is, however, unlikely to suit up on Saturday.

Wahl missed the last two days of practice after leaving Wisconsin's win against Minnesota with an apparent ankle injury.

But aside from Wahl, Wisconsin doesn't get to the free-throw line at a high rate. The Badgers aren't as physical inside the paint and struggle when it comes to finishing at the rim. They are 291st in 2-point offense, shooting at a 46.5% clip.

Defensively, Wisconsin ranks 21st in adjusted efficiency and are above average in nearly every statistic. The Badgers clean up the glass well, rarely foul and rank inside the top 100 in turnover rate.

The Badgers also rank 60th at defending the perimeter and struggle inside despite 7-footer Steven Crowl manning the paint. Aside from him, however, Wisconsin is a bit soft on the interior.

While this Badgers team is disruptive in the passing lanes and force long possessions — opponents are 287th in average possession length — they are 160th in 2-point defense and have been quite fortunate with both 3-point and free-throw variance.

Wisconsin is 15th in opponent FT%.

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Illinois Fighting Illini

One of the most inconsistent teams in college basketball, Illinois enters at 0-3 in Big Ten league play and is 5-5 in its last 10.

This is a team that took down UCLA and Texas, but has lost by double-digits to Penn State, Missouri and Northwestern.

This is an extremely talented — but inexperienced — Illinois squad. The Illini are 301st in Division I experience and 346th in minutes continuity. Mixed results are expected, and it's only a matter of time before everyone gels and Brad Underwood's team finds its stride.

It must be acknowledged before diving deeper into the Illini that former five-star point guard Skyy Clark has left the program as of Friday afternoon.

Freshmen Jayden Epps and Sencire Harris will see larger roles because of his departure.

The Illini love to run-and-gun and are best when working around the paint. They are 11th in 2-point offense and have been boosted by the sophomore-year breakout of Dain Dainja.

The 6-foot-9 big is shooting 74.1% from the field and is 39th in offensive rebounding rate. Despite playing just 18.1 minutes per game, Dainja is second on the team in points (10.6) and first in rebounding (5.7).

Texas Tech transfer Terrence Shannon Jr. is the star and most-used player in this offense (26.1% of possessions). The do-it-all senior forward has been a great rebounder and facilitator, in addition to his team-best 17.1 points per game.

Aside from the duo, though, there's been some issues on the offensive end. Illinois ranks 217th in 3-point percentage and is 317th at the free-throw line. Despite the Illini's success inside, they shoot 3s at the 21st-highest rate.

RJ Melendez has struggled in a larger role — 28% on 3s — while Coleman Hawkins' offensive game has only slightly improved.

After scoring 72+ in seven of its first nine games, Illinois has only broken that once in its last five. That one? Bethune-Cookman.

Like their offense, Underwood's defensive success comes on the interior. The Illini are 19th in eFG%, but an even-better seventh in 2-point defense. Dainja is a force at the rim while Hawkins remains a deterrent, too.

The duo — and Matthew Mayer — are three of the top-15 players in block rate in Big Ten play.

A lot of the Illini's success inside comes from their length. This is a tall, athletic team that ranks 27th in both height and offensive rebounding rate.

The Illini defensive pressure leads to plenty of turnovers and transition opportunities, but momentum and success has yet to translate. They rank 41st in turnover rate, with six players averaging 0.9 steals per game.

Wisconsin vs. Illinois Betting Pick

This is the perfect buy-low, sell-high spot. Though inconsistent this season, Illinois is the better team here and in Champaign, I like its chances at taking down Wisconsin.

The Badgers have been skating on thin ice — with narrow victories all season long — and they're due for another let down game similar to their loss to Wake Forest.

The biggest edge and where I see the game being determined is in the paint. Illinois is set up for success inside on both ends of the floor and should be disruptive enough on the perimeter — because of its length — to force Wisconsin into awkward shots.

Clark's absence shouldn't be an issue here. He's been struggling as is, and his minutes were being slashed prior to his departure.

Tack on the fact that Wisconsin will likely be without Wahl — its best defender, most-used player offensively and a great rebounder — and the Badgers are at a clear disadvantage.

Wisconsin is already at a depth disadvantage and ranks 289th in bench minutes. Losing Wahl, who plays nearly 30 minutes per game, will be detrimental.

I just love this spot for Illinois. Returning home after losing three straight to open Big Ten play should give it enough motivation to start hot.

The Illini need a statement win, and this is the perfect opportunity to do so against what should be a shorthanded Badgers team.

Pick: Illinois -6.5

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