Illini Turnover Advantage Big Over Wisconsin

Mark Lathrop

Friday, January 19, 2018 1:20 PM UTC

Friday, Jan. 19, 2018 1:20 PM UTC

NCAAB handicapper Mark Lathrop gets his choice of game to cover on Friday night, and in a Big Ten matchup of Illinois at Wisconsin he spots an advantage that can't be passed up.

2017-18 NCAAB Record: 25-15 (+9.05 Units)

Illinois Fighting Illini at Wisconsin BadgersFree NCAAB Pick: IllinoisBest Line Offered: Heritage

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Illinois tries get its first Big Ten win Friday night at Wisconsin, as the Illini have started 0-6 in conference play. The Illini are 10-9 SU and 8-7 ATS on the season, while the Badgers are sitting at 9-10 SU and 6-12 ATS. So while Illinois has lost a lot of close games, Wisconsin has been a terrible wager so far on the year. Oddsmakers have started the line with Wisconsin favored at 4.5-points at books such as Bovada, while the total has opened at 137.5 at 5Dimes.

Illinois started its season hot in non-conference play and won 6 games right out of the chute. There was something similar about those games, though, in that they were all at home. Once they hit the road things fell apart in the SU department, yet the Illini covered against Big Ten opponents in Northwestern and Maryland in overtime in that string of 3 losses. Illinois went 4-2 in the rest of its non-conference schedule, including a signature win against Missouri over Christmas break.

The Illini will get 6-foot-1 sophomore guard Te’Jon Lucas, back from suspension in this game, which will bolster a rotation that is 9 deep for coach Brad Underwood’s squad. He has a much different roster this year, of course, with one of the youngest teams in the country. My opinion on that is that freshmen end up playing like sophomores by the end of the season, and so on, so much so that a young team can surprise by the end. But back to Lucas, who when on the floor has the best assist rate on the team. He will be a welcome addition to the lineup and should help the Illini on the offensive end.

Wisconsin has been bitten by the injury bug with 3 players in the main rotation missing time at some point this season. In question tonight will be D’Mitrik Trice, who hasn’t played in weeks. Trice averaged 9.4 points per game and was second in assists on the team while on the floor. Where Wisconsin goes is where 6’ 10” junior Ethan Happ takes them, the future NBA player putting up 16.7 points and 8.4 rebounds per game on the year.

I believe this game will come down to the defensive pressure that Illinois can exert with its deep rotation. Wisconsin ranks at the bottom of the conference in protecting the ball, while Illinois forces the most turnovers in conference play. That advantage favoring the Illini with them catching points is enough for me to back them here, and I will be taking Illinois +5 (buying the hook) on the overnight line as my Friday NCAAB Pick.

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