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)