Illini Fight for Cover vs. No. 3 Zags in Maui Invitational

Willie Bee

Sunday, November 18, 2018 2:25 PM UTC

Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018 2:25 PM UTC

Aloha from Hawaii, where the first day of the Maui Invitational closes with the No. 3 Gonzaga Bulldogs favored on the NCAA basketball odds against Illinois.

Willie's NCAAB season record: 6-5-1 (+0.70 units)

Gonzaga (3-0 SU, 3-0 ATS) vs Illinois (1-1 SU, 1-1 ATS)Monday, 11:30 p.m. ET (ESPN2)Free NCAAB Pick: Illinois ATSBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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Some people are thankful for the family around them this holiday week, and others are glad to have college hoops on the telly to serve as a distraction or buffer from all the family around them. And no matter how you slice the turkey, some of the best matchups take place in the Maui Invitational, the Granddaddy of All Feast Week tournaments.

The final game on the first day of at Lahaina Civic Center is also the last game on Monday’s NCAA basketball odds card, matching Illinois out of the Big Ten against West Coast powerhouse Gonzaga. Ranked No. 3 in the AP poll and sitting No. 6 at KenPom, the Bulldogs draw the chalk line over the Fighting Illini, who have dominated the rivalry.

Zags Top NCAA Scoring Column At 106 PPG

Perhaps the biggest factor in the outcome will be determined by the health of Illinois point guard Trent Frazier. The leading scorer back from Brad Underwood’s squad a year ago, Frazier missed the Illini’s upset loss to Georgetown last week due to a concussion he suffered in practice, and the sophomore is questionable for Monday. His absence was most evident on defense, which Illinois will have to excel at against a Gonzaga group that leads the nation scoring 106 per game.

After putting up 100+ in their first two games, the Bulldogs were "held" to 94 against a defensive-minded Texas A&M crew on Thursday. 5Dimes closed Gonzaga -17, with the contest even 14 minutes into the action before Mark Few’s troops hit the accelerator and never looked back on their way to their third straight ATS cover to begin the 2018-19 campaign. Zach Norvell Jr. led five Bulldogs in double-digits with 22 points, and Brandon Clarke contributed his second consecutive double-double.

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Snack attack in the Kennel! Zach Norvell Jr. scores 22 in Gonzaga's 94-71 win over Texas A&M! Full recap: https://t.co/qVL5dBvYVS #UnitedWeZag pic.twitter.com/QMhvIWxL4c

— Gonzaga Basketball (@ZagMBB) November 16, 2018
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‘Over’ A Winner In 4 Of Last 5 Meetings

This is the seventh meeting between the schools, the previous six taking place since 2001 and the Illini emerging victorious in five of the matchups. The last clash was six years ago in Spokane where both teams were ranked and entered the fracas with unbeaten records. Illinois pulled away from the Bulldogs in the second half for an 85-74 decision as an 11½-point underdog, the final eclipsing a 143½-point total to send "over" bettors back to the pay window for the fourth time in the last five encounters.

The winner of this one will face the winner of the Arizona-Iowa State matchup on Tuesday, and while I fully expect it to be Gonzaga, I’ll take the Illini plus the points with my free college basketball pick.

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