NCAA Basketball Picks: Minnesota vs. Illinois

Joe Freda

Thursday, March 14, 2013 11:55 AM GMT

The Big Ten tourney kicks off today, as the Minnesota Golden Gophers are pitted against the Illinois Fighting Illini. Which team should we back with our sports picks in this situation?


Illinois has logged five straight losing tickets in its final stretch, including an 0-3 spread record on the road. Can the Fighting Illini find a way to heat up here or is it best to keep fading them with our NCAA Basketball picks?

Minnesota Golden Gophers vs Illinois Fighting Illini

Minnesota logged back-to-back road defeats in its final pair of regular-season duels, dropping contests to the Purdue Boilermakers and Nebraska Cornhuskers as ‘chalk.’  Saturday’s 89-73 setback against Purdue saw Minnesota give up 54.2 percent field shooting, including a 7-for-15 mark from three-point land.

Illinois last saw action in Sunday’s 68-55 loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes, falling short of cashing as a 10-point road dog. Fighting Illini guard came away with a team-high 21 points, while mate Myke Henry grabbed eight of his squad’s 25 boards. 

Thursday’s meeting is a rubber match between these two conference rivals, who both picked up road victories on the other’s floor. February’s most recent clash saw Illinois notch a 57-53 triumph as an 8 ½-point underdog, despite being outrebounded by the Golden Gophers, 34-23.

NCAA Basketball odds makers see this as a close contest, considering the confines of Chicago’s United Center as the tournament’s host. Bookmaker.eu opened Minnesota as a two-point favorite, with the number rising a ‘hook’ to 2 ½ after early sports betting action on Tubby Smith’s squad. The ‘total’ was first set at 129, dropping to 127 ½ thanks to initial UNDER wagers. 

I am laying the short number here with Minnesota, looking for the Golden Gophers to pick up some momentum again in this spot. January’s 84-67 road triumph over Illinois saw Minnesota pile in a 52.9 percent night of field shooting, while the Big Ten’s top rebounder Trevor Mbakwe notched a double-double with 19 points and 11 boards. 

Mbakwe and mate Rodney Williams also rank in the conference’s top four for blocks, while will be a key factor in what expects to be a low-octane affair. Illinois is 5-13 ATS in its last 18 spots that followed a defeat, with another losing ticket looming here.

NCAA Basketball Pick:  Minnesota Golden Gophers -2 ½ (Bookmaker.eu

[gameodds]14/224446/43/us[/gameodds]