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Tristen Newton of the UConn Huskies dribbles against Darrion Trammell of the San Diego State Aztecs during the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. We're backing Newton in our Illinois vs. UConn expert picks and best bet.
Tristen Newton of the UConn Huskies dribbles against Darrion Trammell of the San Diego State Aztecs during the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images via AFP.

The defending champions UConn Huskies continue their 2024 March Madness run as they take on the Illinois Fighting Illini in the Elite 8, and we're offering our top Illinois vs. UConn prediction and expert picks based on the best NCAAB odds.

The March Madness odds favorite takes to the court again on Saturday in Elite 8 action, as the No. 1-seed UConn Huskies (34-3) take on the third-seed Illinois Fighting Illini (29-8) to open the slate. 

UConn and Illinois will tip off at 6:09 p.m. ET at TD Garden in Boston. The defending champion Huskies are sizeable 8.5-point favorites at our best sports betting sites despite Illinois' upset of No. 2 seed Iowa State.

The last time we saw the Huskies play, they destroyed San Diego State by 30 points in the third round, which was a 2023 NCAA Tournament final rematch.

Given the Illini's status as one of the nation's top offensive teams, UConn will rely heavily on its star player to deliver his utmost performance in the tournament.

As part of our March Madness predictions, here is our best Illinois vs. UConn prediction and expert picks (odds via our best March Madness betting sites; pick confidence based on a 1-to-5-star scale).

Illinois (3) vs. UConn (1) game info

  • When: Saturday, March 30
  • Tip-off: 6:09 p.m. ET
  • Where: TD Garden, Boston, Mass.
  • How to watch: TBS
  • Favorite: UConn -8.5 (-110 via bet365)

Illinois vs. UConn prediction

Tristen Newton Over 16.5 points ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Best odds: -105 via DraftKings

No team has been able to slow down Illinois' offense during March Madness. Led by Terrence Shannon Jr.'s 28.3 points per game in the tournament, Illinois has looked like a true threat. Against the Cyclones in the Sweet 16, the Illini put up 72, no small feat against a team that ranks first in adjusted defenisve efficiency, per KenPom.

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For UConn to notch its 11th straight win, it will need March Madness MVP odds favorite Tristen Newton to bring his best on offense. Newton leads the Huskies in scoring this season (15.3 PPG) and has scored at least 17 in back-to-back tournament games. While UConn has a top defense, its offense is what has made it special this season - ranking first in adjusted efficiency.

It's going to be a difficult task to slow down Shannon Jr., especially on the back of Iowa State allowing the Illinois star to drop 29 in the Sweet 16. A better option may be leaning on Newton and Co. to light up an Illini defense that's one of the worst remaining in March Madness.

Illinois is just 84th in adjusted defensive efficiency and allows 73.2 points while giving up the 17th most 2-pointers per game in the country (21.2). The defensive struggles go beyond the arc, too, where Big Ten opponents shot 38.8% against Illinois. Newton is a versatile scorer capable of taking advantage of this defense. At the -105 price via DraftKings, a $10 wager would result in a $9.52 profit and there's a 51.22% implied probability it will hit, according to our odds calculator.

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Illinois vs. UConn spread & Over/Under analysis

After Illinois' upset of Iowa State, the Illini opened as an 8.5-point underdog to UConn across our best sports betting apps. The line has yet to see any movement, but we wouldn't be surprised if the Huskies are favored by as many as 9.5 points by tip. While Illinois has covered in five straight games, UConn has been a double-digit favorite in its three March Madness games and has covered the spread each time. 

With these being the No. 1 and 2 offenses in adjusted efficiency this season, the game total opened no lower than 154.5. It's since come up to between 155 and 155.5 at our best sports betting sites and could close as high as 156.5. Illinois is one of the best Over teams in the country at 26-11, but the Huskies have hit the Under in seven of their last eight games.

Illinois-UConn prediction made Friday at 12:30 p.m. ET.

Here are our best March Madness betting sites:

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