Add Illinois +4.5 vs. Villanova to Your NCAA Basketball Picks

Jeff Grant

Tuesday, December 9, 2014 2:40 PM UTC

Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014 2:40 PM UTC

Illinois and Villanova are virtual carbon copies of each other, which provides the underdog betting value in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden.

Outside Shooting
Illinois has won seven of its first eight game due to ranking 23rd in the country in knocking down 8.9 three-pointers per game, which can’t be ignored when looking over the NCAA basketball odds, as it prepares to face an opponent that allows foes to shoot just 26.3 percent from beyond the arc. The Fighting Illini will need a big game from senior guard Rayvonte Rice, who is shooting 53 percent from the floor overall, while he’s managed to score in double figures in every non-conference game in his career since arriving on campus. Over the last two-plus seasons, the program is 11-5 SU and 12-4 ATS when playing on a neutral floor, with the OVER going 9-7 in that situation.


A Race to 70
Villanova has compiled a 32-1 SU record when scoring 70 or more points since the start of last season, which is important to consider when making your college basketball picks, as Illinois has held its opponent to less than 70 points in 32 of its last 34 victories. The Wildcats are certainly balanced on the offensive end—clearly demonstrated in the fact that no player has scored more than 20 points in a game. It’s important to point out that the squad is 41-6 SU and 33-13-1 ATS as favorites since the start of the 2012-13 campaign.


Taking On the Best
The Fighting Illini are 7-17 SU against ranked teams during the John Groce era, including a 3-8 mark when taking on top-10 opponents. Illinois is 3-6 SU all-time when playing at this historic venue, while it dropped a 70-51 decision to Providence on Dec. 9, 2003, in its only previous appearance in this event.

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Catching Fire
The Wildcats are one of the top teams in the country if they catch fire from beyond the arc, which has been the case over the last three games—knocking down 29-of-69 attempts in that period of time.

Villanova also has the ability to pick up wins by taking care of the basketball, as it ranks third nationally with a 6.4 turnover margin—behind only Eastern Kentucky and Virginia.


I’m going to recommend that readers back the Fighting Illini as one of their NCAA basketball picks, as they’ve gone 8-2-1 ATS in their last 11 non-conference affairs.

NCAA Basketball Pick:  Illinois Fighting Illini +4.5 at 5Dimes

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