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(631) Illinois at (632) Iowa State

(631) Illinois at (632) Iowa State
March 28, 2024 10PM EDT
Play Rating:
3% – Iowa State -2.0 (-110)

3% Take Iowa State (#632)

I don’t step in front of Illinois lightly; an elite level basketball team.  But the Illini go through poorly played stretches in almost every game they play, something that’s primed to catch up with Brad Underwood’s squad as they take on the elite Cyclones on Thursday Night.

The Illini have future NBA talent in Terrance Shannon.  They’ve got interior size and muscle; their ball handling is rock solid.  It’s not a team with many flaws, except that key one – those consistent stretches, game after game, where the attention to detail lapses. 

Let’s be real about Illinois – they’ve had an easy path to get here.  First, all the top seeds got bounced from the Big 10 tourney, leaving the Illini to beat Ohio State, Nebraska and Wisconsin to win that title, not exactly a who’s who of elite Big 10 teams.  Last weekend, Illinois was able to feast upon Morehead State and Duquesne – again, lesser competition.  Iowa State is NOT lesser competition; the toughest team Illinois has faced since losing to Purdue.

Defense trumps offense in the NCAA Tournament, and the Cyclones defense in the two years of the TJ Otzelberger era has been nothing but elite.  Ken Pom’s advanced metrics are calling Iowa State the best defense in the country and I don’t disagree in any way.  Their path to get here over the past two weeks has been impressive, including dominant wins over Houston, Baylor and Washington State.  Iowa State doesn’t rely on any one scorer, a team that can withstand an ‘off night’ from anyone; not the case for Illinois who relies heavily on Shannon’s scoring.  Give Otzelberger extra time to prepare for Shannon and I expect him to be contained. And with Cyclones frosh stud Milan Momcilovic seemingly getting better by the game –  a legit, go-to scorer at this stage of the campaign, this is a game I expect Iowa State to win.  Lay it or don’t play it!  Take Iowa State.

Line Parameter: 3% at -3 or lower, 2% at -3.5 or higher

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