Illinois vs. Rutgers: NCAA Basketball Picks and Predictions

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Illinois vs. Rutgers: NCAA Basketball Picks and Predictions
Geo Baker #0 of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights rebounds the ball. Justin Casterline/Getty Images/AFP

We finally get to see the big boys from the Big Ten in action on Friday’s NCAAB picks fixture when the top 4 seeds from the conference take the floor. The includes the Illinois Fighting Illini who will tangle with the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights vs. Illinois Fighting Illini 

Friday, March 12, 2021 – 06:30 PM EST at Lucas Oil Stadium

Everything has gone exactly according to plan in the Big Ten Tournament as the quarterfinals will feature the eight top seeds. Illinois came into the event as the No. 2, earning a bye into the quarters along with the top-seeded Michigan Wolverines plus the Iowa Hawkeyes and Purdue Boilermakers as the 3-4 outfits, respectively. Rutgers placed No. 7 in a conference that is expected to send nine teams to the NCAA Tournament.

Knights on 4-0 ATS Streak in Series

Though Lucas Oil Stadium won’t be anywhere near capacity, at least there will be 6,500+ fans inside to add to the atmosphere. The rest of us will have to tune out devices to the Big Ten Network to catch the action. And speaking of action, the Fighting Illini have been tagged with chalk in the 7½-8 range, and the total is sitting on 137.

We have to sift back through nearly three months of action to look at the only meeting between Illinois and Rutgers this season. That took place before Christmas in Piscataway where the Scarlet Knights pulled off a 91-88 win as small home ‘dogs at the best sports betting sites. The Fighting Illini led the entire first half, building their advantage to 11 at one time, but a strong second half by Rutgers took care of things. A 4½-minute span when the Scarlet Knights went on a 15-4 run proved to be the difference.

There isn’t much history between the two programs with Friday’s tilt just the 12th in the series. Illinois leads 8-3 (7-3 as conference foes), and this will be their first meeting in the Big Ten Tournament. December’s win was Rutgers’ second consecutive in the rivalry, and the final easily got past the total, the fourth ‘over’ winner in the last six matchups.

Illini Finish on 4-0 SU & ATS Run

It would be difficult to find a stronger showing over as tough of a closing schedule than what Brad Underwood’s bunch showed is the final week of the regular season. Three successive wins on the road against any opponents is notable enough, but doing so on the road against three ranked Big Ten opponents is nothing short of remarkable. Just winning one or two of the games at Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio State would’ve been seen as acceptable, but the Fighting Illini took down all three as underdogs on the NCAAB lines.

The biggest of those victories came in Ann Arbor 10 days ago, busting out a 76-53 romp past the Wolverines who were favored by 8½. A modest 6-0 run midway through the first half was the propellant for the upset, and Illinois did it without star Ayo Dosunmu who missed three games near the end of the season with a broken nose. Dosunmu donned a protective mask to return for the season finale at Ohio State and canned 7-of-10 from the field to help lead the Fighting Illini to a 68-63 upset of the Buckeyes.

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‘Under’ Cashes Six of Knights’ Last Eight

Steve Pikiell’s cagers sort of limped to the finish line with just two wins among their final five regular season games. The Scarlet Knights did close it out with a tough overtime win on the road at Minnesota, however, and Thursday’s 61-50 decision over Indiana should all but sew up their first invite to March Madness since 1991.

Rutgers struggled early on Thursday, trailing the Hoosiers by 10 midway through the first half. The Scarlet Knights kept punching, and completely smothered Indiana over the final 9:48 of the game by holding the Hoosiers to just 2 points. Myles Johnson came up big for the Fighting Illini, pulling down 7 offensive rebounds among his 13 boards to go with 10 points. Ron Harper Jr. also contributed a double-double (13 pts, 10 reb).

Only one lower seed has won in the first five games of the Big Ten Tournament, and that was No. 13 Minnesota in a close one over No. 12 Northwestern on the first day of the event. This game should be as physical as they come with both teams loving to bang on opponents inside. I’m going against the trend when the Scarlet Knights and Fighting Illini get together with a play on the ‘under’ in this Big Ten quarterfinal battle.

NCAAB Pick: Under 137 (-108) at Heritage Sports (visit our Heritage Sports Review)

Under 137 (-108)
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*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.