Free NCAA Basketball Picks: Big Ten Tournament Round 1 Preview

Willie Bee

Wednesday, March 9, 2016 1:55 PM UTC

Wednesday, Mar. 9, 2016 1:55 PM UTC

The dregs of the Big Ten open play Wednesday in the conference tournament, and we're taking an early look at how the NCAA basketball odds shape up in the two games.

After 134 non-conference games played by the dozen schools and another 108 affairs on the league slate, it's finally time to determine who gets to call themselves Big Ten Champions for 2015-16.

Everything gets underway Wednesday afternoon in Indianapolis at Bankers Life Fieldhouse with the four teams that finished at the bottom of the regular season heap.

**Get A Full Breakdown On The ACC 1st Round Preview Right Here**

Illini Go For 3rd Win Of Year Vs. Gophers
Everything tips with a 4:30 PM (ET) matchup between the No. 13 seed Minnesota Golden Gophers and No. 11 Illinois Fighting Illini. ESPN2 will carry the game and Pinnacle started things with the Illini at -8 while Bookmaker opened up a 137½ point total.

The Gophers will be hoping the third time's the charm against Illinois this year after the Fighting Illini won both regular season meetings. The first one in Minneapolis on January 23 went to overtime before Illinois came away with a 76-71 decision as 2 point chalk on the NCAA basketball odds. Game 2 was just a couple of weeks ago in Champaign where the Illini overcame a 1st-half deficit for an 84-71 victory, this time giving up 5 points. Both games went 'over' the totals (145½, 142).

Like his dad at Louisville, Minnesota (8-22 straight up, 10-18 against the spread) head coach Richard Pitino is also dealing with a sex scandal, though not near as serious as the one that pushed the Cardinals to declare themselves ineligible for this postseason. Suspended were Nate Mason, Kevin Dorsey and Dupree McBrayer, all guards and 1-5-6, respectively, in the scoring column for the Gophers. The trio missed the final three regular season contests when Dorsey's social media sites included some naughty videos and photos, and Minnesota proceeded to drop all three games both on the floor and on the betting cards.

Also missing will be forward Joey King who is out with a broken foot suffered in the team's final home game vs. Wisconsin, ending the senior's season.

With all that firepower gone, Illinois (13-18 SU, 14-14-1 ATS) should skate past Minnesota. Then again, this is March when we've learned anything can happen, and this is a Fighting Illini team that's only three wins since January came against Minnesota and Rutgers (twice).

John Groce's group has a huge advantage in the backcourt with juniors Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill, but the key to the cover will be Maverick Morgan taking care of business on the inside. I believe he can which is why I'm laying the points on Illinois for my first free NCAA basketball pick.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Illinois -8.5
Best Line Offered: at TheGreek


'Huskers Also Seek 3rd Win Of Year Vs. Rutgers
The second game on Day 1 is a 7 PM (ET) battle that can be seen on the Big Ten Network where the No. 14 Rutgers Scarlet Knights try to pull off one of the more sizeable upsets in the opening round of any conference against No. 11 Nebraska. The Cornhuskers went out -14 on the overnight odds at Pinnacle, Bookmaker starting matters with a 140½ point total.

Rutgers (7-24 SU, 10-16 ATS) avoided going winless throughout the entire conference slate by beating Minnesota last Saturday in the season finale, actually covering as small home chalk in the 75-52 rout. Before then, the last win for the Scarlet Knights was December 28 against the mighty UMass-Lowell River Hawks.

That upset in East Lansing on January 20 turned out to be the high point for Tim Miles and Nebraska (14-17 SU, 14-12 ATS). The Cornhuskers won just two more games after beating the Spartans, and head into the tourney on a 5-game skid (4-7 ATS last 11). One of the wins came against Rutgers at home to complete a season sweep of the Knights after beating them in New Jersey. Nebraska and the 'over' were winners each time at the window.

I'm playing the 'over' for my final NCAA basketball pick of the day.

[/]{"component":"oddswidget", "eventId":2995934, "sportsbooksIds":[1096,93,19,92,238,169], "LineTypeId":3, "PeriodTypeId":1}[/]
NCAA Basketball Pick: Over 138½ 
Best Line Offered: at Bookmaker

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