Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Northwestern Wildcats Pick – NCAAM January 7, 2021

The Illinois Fighting Illini and Northwestern Wildcats are set to battle at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Thursday night on the campus of Northwestern University. Illinois hopes to get into the top-10 of the NCAA rankings with a solid showing tonight and Sunday.

Following their meeting against the Wildcats on Thursday, they will head back home for a big showdown against the Ohio State Buckeyes. Ohio State should be a worthy challenger for Illinois, but if they belong in the top-10, a win is going to have to be absolutely necessary in that spot.

As is a win against the Wildcats on Thursday night. Illinois goes into Thursday with a record of 8-3 following a 66-58 win over the Purdue Boilermakers at home on Saturday. It was a valiant effort from the Boilermakers, but not just enough. The Fighting Illini built up a 33-23 lead going into the half and held in the second frame.

Center, Kofi Cockburn, led the way for Illinois with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Illinois has been solid this season, but after what we saw last night from the Michigan Wolverines, they need a lot more than Cockburn. Give me Hunter Dickinson any day of the week over Cockburn.

Not only Illinois, but the rest of the Big Ten is going to continue to have problems with the Wolverines. Northwestern has been respectable at 6-3 on the season. They were ranked at one point, but have since lost that status. The Wildcats are coming off a blowout loss against the Wolverines, 85-66, on January 3.

This was after a blowout loss against the Iowa Hawkeyes, 87-72. This is a brutal stretch for Northwestern with Illinois on deck next, but fortunately, back home for this contest after two road games. Head below for our free Illinois vs. Northwestern pick on January 7, 2021.

Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Northwestern Wildcats NCAA Betting Odds:


  • Illinois +7 (-115)
  • Northwestern -7 (-105)

  • Illinois OFF
  • Northwestern OFF

  • Over 150.5 (-110)
  • Under 150.5 (-110)


Illinois vs. Northwestern Prediction:

The last time Northwestern were home, they had a good time against the Buckeyes. Northwestern edged out Ohio State by a score of 71-70 in a close call. Ohio State were the favorites, but the Wildcats did a good job to win straight up. It was their third straight win as an underdog, with victories over Michigan State, 79-65, Indiana, 74-67, and Ohio State, 71-70.

When they had to head on the road, though, things got a little frustrating for Northwestern. The Wildcats have been sharp offensively, with an average of 81.7 points scored per game, and even better at home. Northwestern has notched 87.2 points per game at home in Evanston. Their defense has held up well as well, with 61.5 points against per game.

It’s not like Northwestern has faced all cream puffs at home, so they should get a bit of credit for what they’ve done in that respect. Illinois must get their defense in order in this outing. Every time they’ve gone on the road in the 2020-21 campaign, defense has apparently been optional for them.

The Fighting Illinois have been touched up for 80.3 points per game as a visitor this season. Dating back to six meetings ago in 2016, Illinois and Northwestern have typically gotten into close games. Only 4.6 points has separated the Fighting Illini and Wildcats through those six meetings. The points with the home dog appears like the way to go in Evansville tonight.


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Kyle E / Author

Kyle is a veteran of TheSportsGeek and has spent nearly a decade providing accurate sports picks and writeups here. He has been a sports handicapper for 10+ years and started sharing his picks and thoughts in 2011 at TheSportsGeek. His expertise spans across multiple sports, including the NFL, NCAAF, MLB, NHL, and horse racing. Prior to writing for TheSportsGeek, Kyle was a fantasy football expert, who ultimately parlayed it into a successful sports betting career. You can find his picks daily only at TheSportsGeek.