Irish to Cover Short Line on the Road: Notre Dame vs. Illinois NCAA Basketball Picks

Joe Catalano

Wednesday, December 2, 2015 4:26 PM UTC

Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015 4:26 PM UTC

The NCAA basketball odds makers have a lot of faith in Illinois as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish take their 4-2 record into the State Farm Center. What will be the best NCAA basketball pick?

Tip-off is scheduled for Wednesday, December 2nd at 9:15 p.m. EST at the State Farm Center in Champaign, Illinois. This game can be seen on ESPN 2. According to NCAA Basketball odds, the Fighting Irish are a 2.5 point betting favorite and the total for the game is listed at 142.5. By first glance, 2.5 point doesn't appear like much considering the two participants. Are odds makers looking to make bettors bet on the road team in Notre Dame is the question?


Illinois Against the Elite of the NCAA
We take a look at Illinois' schedule and there's nothing to indicate them worthy of being such a slight underdog as they haven't beaten any top 25 teams. In fact, they're coming off of an 84-73 loss to Iowa State.

This was a game in which Illinois had the early lead and was very competitive for most of the game, but in the end, they lost by double-figures to the Cyclones. Malcolm Hill led the way for the Fighting Illini, converting on 4 of 7 3-pointers to go along with 20 points and 5 rebounds. This game was played at a neutral site and a matchup against Notre Dame at home should be easier, but Notre Dame is no pushover.


No Nunn, No Win
Illinois was led by the two-headed monster of Kendrick Nunn (18.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists) and Malcolm Hill (16.7 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.3 assists). Both of these players logged a ton of minutes; in excess of 33.5 minutes per ball game as they can both play both ends of the court. Unfortunately for Illinois, Nunn is out for several weeks due to a thumb injury and that puts pressure on guys such as Jalen Coleman- Lands (8.1 points, 45.5% from 3-point range) to pick up the slack.

Illinois is not very deep at the guard position and they'll also need another strong effort from big man, Mike Thorne Jr.. The senior transfer is a wide body that can't be contained and is averaging 13.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. Ultimately, Illinois will rely on Malcolm Hill just like they did against the Cyclones. This ACC/Big Ten Challenge Matchup appears to be a tall order for Illinois.

Notre Dame won't be coming into this game on the highest of notes as they were upset by Alabama, 74-73 and knocked out of the Top 25 AP Poll, but this game appears to be a great matchup for the Irish regardless of the paper thin betting lines.


Top Heavy
Notre Dame relies heavily on their starters as 3 of their starters play 33 minutes or more per game and that's not counting double-double man, Zach Auguste, who logs 29 minutes and averages 13.8 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. The bench is the weakness of this team and that's the only way that I can see this team losing this game.

Demetrius Johnson who leads Notre Dame in scoring at 18.3 points, 4.5 assists, and 4 rebounds per game is coming off of two sub-par shooting efforts against Iowa and Alabama, He actually played the entire 40 minutes in the loss to the Crimson Tide, but expect a huge effort out of him here. Illinois doesn't have the talent to compete with this 6'1' junior out of Mishawaka, Indiana. 

Illinois is notoriously a very tough team at home and that is a concern, but the talent wins out here as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish should be able to handle a 2.5 point spread. Take them with your NCAA Basketball picks.

NCAA Basketball Pick: Notre Dame Fighting Irish -2.5 at 5Dimes

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