Nebraska is the Surprising NCAA Basketball Pick at Illinois

LT Profits Sports Group

Wednesday, March 4, 2015 4:52 PM GMT

Each day LT Profits Sports seeks an overlay side that has a better chance of cashing than its spread, offering long term value. Here is their Side Value Play for Wednesday.

 

It could be a classic case of “buy low and sell high” in the Big Ten Wednesday night when the Nebraska Cornhuskers (13-15, 1-10 away) pay a visit to the Illinois Fighting Illini (18-11, 13-2 home) at the State Farm Center in Champaign, IL at 10:00 ET in a game televised nationally on Big Ten Network.

The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Nebraska as a decided road underdog for this contest with the current line at +8 with odds of -110.


Illinois Scored 86 Points Last Game But…
Illinois is probably on the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble at 18-11, especially with only a .500 Big Ten Conference record at 8-8, but the Illini had their best offensive performance of the season while getting to that .500 mark with an 86-60 rout of Northwestern Saturday here in Champaign, thanks in large part to 48.3 percent shooting (14-for-29) from beyond the three-point arc.

Nebraska meanwhile has now been the losing NCAA Basketball pick in six straight games to drop to two games under .500 at 13-15 and to 5-11 in the conference. In the most recent 81-57 defeat at Ohio State, the Cornhuskers allowed season highs in both points and field goal percentage at 53.8 percent (28-for-52) after previously not allowing their previous 38 opponents going back to last season to shoot over 50 percent.


…Can the Illini Do It Again?
However, all of this could actually serve to make Nebraska undervalued in this game and set the Huskers up as a very nice contrarian play. After all, Illinois is not a team known for its offense. Granted the Illini are not terrible ranking 112th in the country in offensive efficiency but they are only 199th in effective field goal percentage at 48.5 percent and even with Saturday’s performance, they are still only averaging 63.3 points per game in Big Ten play.

And remember that Nebraska held Illinois to 43 points in a 53-43 Cornhuskers’ victory the first time these teams met this season in Lincoln back in January on just 27.3 percent shooting! No, Illinois is not quite that bad offensively either, but that bad shooting performance by the Fighting Illini is actually closer to their true level in conference play this season than the lights-out performance vs. Northwestern was.


Nebraska Defense Better Than Last Game
And while Illinois is the “sell high” part of the equation, Nebraska is the “buy low” after its worst defensive performance in about a calendar year. The Cornhuskers are obviously a much better defensive team than they showed in Columbus and they already proved that in the first meeting with Illinois this year.

Nebraska is an excellent 21st in the county in defensive efficiency and 79th in effective field goal percentage allowed at 46.6 percent, and it is also above average in forcing turnovers, doing so 20.8 percent of the time vs. a national average of 19.2 percent.

Now granted the Cornhuskers are offensively challenged ranking 312th in the nation with their 61.5 points per game, but that may actually be adequate enough to cover this inflated point spread here provided the Illinois offense and Nebraska defense both return to their normal levels after both blipping last game.


Cornhuskers 2-1 ATS Last Three Visits to Illinois
Finally, Nebraska is 5-2 ATS in the seven head-to-head meetings between these schools since the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten, and that includes going 2-1 ATS in three visits here to Champaign.

Look for Nebraska to continue that success here as both teams normalize, so take the generous points with the Cornhuskers at Illinois on Wednesday.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Nebraska +8 (-110)