Big Ten Clash: Play Iowa -10 Our NCAA Basketball Pick vs. Illinois

Mark Lathrop

Sunday, February 7, 2016 1:30 PM UTC

Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016 1:30 PM UTC

In a pre-Super Bowl warmup, our NCAAB handicapper reviews a game that should be a blowout for those bettors ready to lay heavy chalk on the favorite.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Iowa -10
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle


You’ve got to watch something before the big game, right? The Big Ten Network apparently believes that should be a game between their Conference leading Iowa Hawkeyes (18-4, 9-1) and the almost in the cellar Illinois Fighting Illini (11-12, 3-7), who have one of the most redundant monikers in all of sports. We’re from Illinois, and we’re fighting? But I digress.

It is quite obvious when looking at the records of these teams that this is a mismatch, and the NCAA Basketball odds makers have agreed, instilling the Hawkeyes as 11-point favorites. They are also available at -10.5 at 5Dimes and most other books, including Heritage. We’ve already had some line movement towards the Illini with them opening at 12.5 point underdogs and getting bet down to 10.5 at that book. The O/U total has opened at 149.5 at BookMaker, my go to source for opening O/U lines it seems.

Iowa’s record, especially when considering their schedule, has to have them considered as one of the favorites to reach the Final Four this year. Carrying a lofty 7th RPI ranking coming into this game, Iowa also carries a 7th ranked strength of schedule this year. This is important when looking at the only losses that Iowa has had this year, 4 games to teams ranked 36th (Notre Dame), 12th (Iowa State), 11th (Dayton), and 6th (Maryland). Iowa has six wins against teams ranked 50th or higher in RPI and is undefeated in matchups with teams ranked higher than 100.

This makes the fact that Illinois is ranked 141st in RPI a little concerning for fans of those Fighting Local Residents. Illinois is 1-7 SU against teams ranked in the top 50 of RPI, 2-3 SU against teams ranked 51-100, 2-2 SU against teams ranked 101-200, and finally 6-0 SU against teams ranked higher than 201 in RPI. It’s hard to say that Illinois poor record of 11-12 is inflated, but the sad fact is that it certainly is.

RPI this and RPI that, what does it all mean? Case in point: The Iowa Hawkeyes just played the Penn State Nittany Lions as 15.5-point favorites, a 107 RPI vs. a 7 RPI, and they crushed them by 24 points to easily cover the spread. The Nittany Lions were 1-11 SU against teams ranked higher than 100th in RPI.  There are some indicators that a team can be outclassed, and this is one of them.

Interestingly enough, the trends in this matchup heavily favor Illinois, especially playing as a home favorite. Iowa is 1-11 SU playing on the road at Illinois in their last 12 matchups. However, Illinois is just 1-3-1 ATS in their last six games against Iowa and 1-4 SU in their last five games at home. Overall, Illinois is just 4-8-3 ATS at home this year.

One thing I like to look for when assessing if a heavily favored team is susceptible to a letdown is upper classmen. In this case, Iowa has an experienced squad that should not be distracted by playing in the soft spot of their schedule. The leading scorer (Jarrod Uhoff – 18.4 PPG), leading rebounder (Adam Woodbury – 7.4 RPG), and leading assist getter (Mike Gesell – 6.3 APG) are all seniors.

Illinois is also dealing with some injuries to key players Michael Finke, Kendrick Nunn, and Mike Thorne Jr. It’s just too much for them to overcome in this game and I doubt they will be able to keep this game within single digits. I’m taking Iowa to win big over Illinois in this one and grabbing them at 10.5 points at Heritage as one of my NCAA Basketball Picks as I pre-funk for the big game. 

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