Northwestern vs #6 Illinois Road to March Madness

Northwestern vs #6 Illinois Road to March Madness | 2021 NCAA Basketball Expert Analysis

Written by on February 15, 2021

No. 6 Illinois is battling for the Big Ten regular-season title and could be in position for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Illini will be heavy home favorites on the NCAAB odds over a struggling Northwestern side on Tuesday as Illinois goes for the season sweep.

How to Bet Northwestern at Illinois NCAA Basketball Odds & TV Info

Last Meeting

On Jan. 7 in Evanston, Illinois won 81-56 despite trailing by 15 at the half. The Illini struggled across the board in the first half, turning the ball over 11 times and scoring only 28 points on 35% shooting. However, the Illini outscored the Wildcats a crazy 53-13 in the second half. Kofi Cockburn could not be stopped in the second half, where he scored 13 points and secured 10 rebounds. He finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Ayo Dosunmu contributed 15 points, six assists, and five rebounds. Illinois became the only Division I team in the last 25 seasons to trail by 15+ points at halftime yet win by 20 or more.

Illinois is on a five-game winning streak against Northwestern and leads the all-time series 139-42.

Why Bet on Northwestern? | 2021 NCAA Basketball Expert Analysis

The Wildcats (6-12) lost their 11th in a row Saturday, 64-50 at No. 25 Rutgers. Northwestern led by as many as 10 early in the first half at 14-4, but Rutgers would go on a run of their own to go into the break up 37-27. The Wildcats were held to 33% shooting in their lowest-scoring game of the season.

“After they jumped on us quickly, I thought we settled down,” Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said.

First-year guard Ty Berry missed his second consecutive game to return home after his father died last Tuesday. Anthony Gaines led the Wildcats’ offensive throughout the first half, eclipsing his season high in the first 20 minutes of action as he posted 11 points while knocking down a pair of three-pointers. The redshirt junior also finished with six rebounds.

Chase Audige also finished with 11 points to go along with four rebounds two assists and two steals, marking the seventh game this season Audige has recorded multiple steals. The redshirt sophomore has now scored in double figures in four-consecutive games, tied for his longest stretch scoring in double figures since he opened the season with four-straight games.

The Wildcats finished with seven blocks for the second-consecutive game for the first time since the 2017-18 season.  Leading the shot blocking charge was Pete Nance, who finished with two blocks as well as eight points and a team-leading seven rebounds. Nance has now recorded at least seven rebounds in seven consecutive games, extending what was already the longest streak of his career.

As a team, Rutgers shot 41.1 percent from the field to the Wildcats’ 32.7 percent, while holding a decisive advantage on the boards, winning the rebounding battle 43-31. From the free-throw line, the Knights were able to finish the game shooting 87.5 percent to Northwestern’s 66.7 percent.

Why Bet on Illinois? | 2021 NCAA Basketball Expert Analysis

Illinois won its fifth in a row Friday, 77-72 in OT at a bad Nebraska side. Illini star Ayo Dosunmu, who had 22 of his 31 points after halftime, tied it at 66 with his driving lay-in with 20 seconds left in regulation. Nebraska’s Trey McGowens failed to get a shot off at the buzzer, and Dosunmu opened overtime with a layup and 3-pointer to send Illinois to its fifth consecutive victory. Illinois is now 14-5 overall and 10-3 in the conference, their best Big Ten record after 13 games since the 2004-05 season.

“We escaped in a very ugly fashion,” coach Brad Underwood said. “Nobody at the end of the year is going to draw pictures of this one, but it’s a W. We’ve got to learn from it. I want to give Nebraska a ton of credit because they played great.”

Sophomore Kofi Cockburn recorded his 14th double-double of the season with 21 points and a game-high 13 rebounds, while freshman Adam Miller chipped in 10 points and seven rebounds.

Illinois has won five straight overtime games since 2019. Dosunmu has scored 13 points (3.25 per OT) and shot 71.4% (5-7) in four of those overtime games (fouled out at Indiana 2/2/21), including five points on 3-of-4 shooting at Nebraska. Illinois had eight blocks at Nebraska, tied for its most in a game this season and the most for the Illini on the road since Feb. 22, 2011 at #2 Ohio State (8).

Dosunmu’s 31 points were the second-most of his career (36 at Missouri 12/12/20) and his fourth 30-point game of the season. Dosunmu made 12 shots, the second-most of his career (13 at Missouri 12/12/20). Owning numbers of 21.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per game, Ayo Dosunmu is solidifying his candidacy for First-Team All-America status. He is the only player in the NCAA over the last 11 seasons to average at least 20 points, six rebounds and four assists.

Cockburn has posted double-doubles in 11 of 13 Big Ten games, averaging 18.9 points and 11.4 rebounds during league play while shooting 69.0% from the field.

Expert Prediction
  • Illinois 69, Northwestern 58

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