Add Illinois +15 To Your NCAA Basketball Picks vs. Maryland

Jason Lake

Wednesday, March 2, 2016 10:30 PM GMT

The Maryland Terrapins are having trouble beating the NCAA Basketball odds. A loss Thursday to the Illinois Fighting Illini could really put a dent in their March Madness plans.

Jason's 2015-16 record as of March 2: 8-8 ATS, 1-2 Totals

Are the Maryland Terrapins really all that? M'eh. They're maybe the fifth-best basketball team in the fifth-best conference in Division I. That's still pretty good, but good enough to sit at No. 14 in the polls ahead of the NCAA Tournament? Hardly. And the Terps (23-6 SU, 12-15-1 ATS) have picked exactly the wrong time to start regressing; they've dropped three of their last four games at 0-3-1 ATS.

Good news, Maryland fans: Your team gets to play the Illinois Fighting Illini (13-16 SU, 12-12-3 ATS) this Thursday, at home, on EPSN starting at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. That should stop the bleeding. At press time, the Illini are massive 15-point underdogs on our NCAA Tournament odds board. But can Maryland cover that giant spread? Magic mirror, tell me today.

 

Still Ill
The math looks good. Sports-Reference has Maryland pegged at +17.5 on the Simple Rating System, about 12.5 points better than Illinois (+4.9 SRS). If we give the Terps 3.5 points for playing at home in College Park, that works out to a kayfabe spread of Maryland –16. Seems like there's a touch of profit margin available there.

The Illini haven't had much luck with injuries this year, either. Senior center Mike Thorne (25.8 PER, –5.3 BPM), a transfer from Charlotte, only got in eight games before tearing his meniscus. Sophomore forward Leron Black (11.0 PER, –2.8 BPM) played just seven games on his surgically-repaired right knee before hitting the showers, and senior point guard Tracy Abrams didn't even get to play this year because of a torn Achilles. Yet the Illini have regrouped somewhat, going 3-4 SU and 5-2 ATS in February.

 

Smear the Turtle
Maryland needs to regroup right this minute. Bracketologists like what the Terrapins have been able to do this season, but Ken Pomeroy isn't convinced; he's got Maryland ranked No. 23 overall (No, 35 offense, No. 19 defense) on his efficiency charts. That's still miles ahead of No. 134 Illinois (No. 158 offense, No. 153 defense), but well behind where the Terps are in the polls.

We're a bit nervous about that spread, too. Maryland is just 5-11 ATS this year when favored by more than seven points. Neither of these teams is particularly fleet of foot; the Terrapins live up to their name, ranking No. 183 in adjusted tempo on the Pomeroy charts, while the Illini rank No. 153. You need possessions to score points, and Maryland only gets so many possessions. The Terps also turn the ball over a lot more than Illinois.

Looks like we're going to have to put the Illini in our NCAA Tournament picks. They're the hotter team of the two, at least from a betting perspective, and besides, the math we did earlier tends to break down once you're dealing with these massive spreads. Come on, baby. Don't fear the turtle.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Illinois +15
Best Line Offered: at Bookmaker