NCAAM Pick January 10, 2021 – Maryland Terrapins at Illinois Fighting Illini

We have been on absolute fire in the last two weeks, running up a stellar 12-6 ATS record. Yesterday we picked up another pair of winners in the PAC-12, when we backed Oregon and USC. The USC bet was a particularly easy winner, as the Trojans have been flying under the radar nationally, but I think this team could be a dark horse Final Four threat. The fact that they were laying just a point and a half against an Arizona State Sun Devils team that has struggled badly recently and was going to be without some of their best players, was shocking.

I felt that ASU wasn’t going to have an answer for Evan Mobley and that the Trojans caught them at the perfect time, as the Sun Devils have been destroyed by injuries and Corona Virus related delays. You hate to ever expect a team to get beaten up on their home floor in league play, but at the end of the day, I felt that USC was going to win the game, and fairly easily.

And that is exactly what happened. Mobley absolutely dominated in the paint, scoring 19 points on 5-7 shooting from the field and snatching 13 rebounds. He added in 6 blocks, and the Trojans coasted to the win and the cover in hostile territory. This was the second consecutive game that ASU had to play without Remy Martin, and while they put up a commendable effort without their best player, they just weren’t able to hang with USC in crunch time.

The win was a big one for the Trojans, as they continue to impress out west. USC was able to pick up the desert sweep this week, with wins over both Arizona and Arizona State, and it wouldn’t shock me at all to see USC ranked in next week’s AP Poll. I know that we have seen USC squander top-level talent several times in the last several seasons, but something tells me this team is different, and you need to take notice, as they are going to be a tough out in March. For today’s free daily betting pick, we will take a look at another team that needs to be feared in March, as the Fighting Illini of Illinois host the Maryland Terrapins in Big 10 conference action.

Today’s Game

  • Maryland Terrapins (6-6) at Illinois Fighting Illini (9-3)
  • Assembly Hall, Champaign
  • 5:00 PM PST
  • TV: BTN

The Maryland Terrapins are looking to stop the bleeding tonight as they head to Illinois for a game with the Fighting Illini, hoping to snap their 3-game losing streak. The Terrapins have lost 3 straight games and 6 out of their last 8 overall. All of those losses have come to strong competition, but in the Big 10, that’s just about all you get to play, and things aren’t going to get any easier for Maryland any time soon.

For Illinois, the Illini have reeled off 4 straight wins, all coming in Big 10 play, and are back to looking like the team we all thought they would be coming into the season. Illinois has played a brutal schedule, with an SOS of 10th, and despite a couple of early losses to Baylor, Missouri, and Rutgers, the Illini still have one of the best resumes in the country with signature wins over Duke, Minnesota, Northwestern, Indiana, and Purdue. Illinois would love to add another top-50 win to their record tonight at home against the Terrapins.

Spread:

  • Illinois Fighting Illini (-8.5)
  • Maryland Terrapins (+8.5)
Money line:

  • Illinois Fighting Illini (-450)
  • Maryland Terrapins (+325)
Total Points:

  • Over 147 (-110)
  • Under 147 (-110)

Illinois Fighting Illini (9-3)

We have this habit of taking really good teams and convincing ourselves they aren’t as good as we all thought they were when they lose games to other really good teams. Illinois came into this season looking like a legit national title contender. They went out in the non-conference and played games against Duke, Missouri, and Baylor, all in either true road games in the case of Duke and Missouri, or on a neutral floor, with Baylor. So, yeah, they lost 2 out of those 3 games against really good competition, so what? Does that mean that Illinois still isn’t an elite team? Of course not.

This Illini team still has one of the best coaches in the nation, and they still have a two-man wrecking crew in Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn. Dosunmu is looking like a national player of the year candidate with a stat line of 22 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists a game. And Cockburn has evolved into one of the best bigs in the nation, averaging a double-double at 17 points and 10 boards a game.

The fact that Illinois has managed to dominate in Big 10 action, winning 5 of their last 6 games, all coming against NCAA tournament level teams, isn’t remotely surprising, as they are who we thought they were all along, and that is a very good basketball team.

Maryland Terrapins (6-6)

In a league that is as loaded as the Big 10 is this year, some teams are going to get the short end of the stick. When you have 10+ teams that could make the NCAA tournament all playing in the same conference, wins are going to be hard to come by. That means that some teams that are good enough to compete in just about any other conference in the country, are going to have a losing record in the Big 10. Teams like Penn State and Purdue come to mind as quality teams that aren’t going to stay competitive in the Big 10, and I would add the Maryland Terrapins in that group as well.

Maryland is just 1-5 in Big 10 play, and while nobody is going to fault them for losing to teams like Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, or Rutgers, if they can’t beat top-25 level teams, there just aren’t going to be many wins on the schedule for the Turtles. They did manage to pick up a really nice win at Wisconsin, but sadly, that one is starting to look a lot like a one-off fluke. If Maryland can pull off another huge upset tonight on the road at Illinois, I may have to reassess my position on the Terrapins, but right now, I’m not sure this game is going to even be competitive.

Who Do I Like?

Illinois is really starting to hit their groove in the Big 10. This recent 4-game winning streak has seen the Illini win by an average of nearly 15-points per game. That is how I see this game tonight finishing out as well, with Illinois winning by double-digits. The original betting line reflected that thinking as Illinois opened up as -12-point favorites. But since then, the betting public has decided that they want all they can eat on a Maryland team that has lost 4 out of their last 5 games and is just 1-3 on the road this year.

That public action has moved this number heavily towards Maryland, and we can now back the Illini laying just -8.5-points. Kenpom has Illinois winning this one by ten, so it will be nice to be on the side of the data, rather than the public tonight. I’ll back Illinois in this one, and we won’t have to sweat it out much, as it could end up being a complete blowout.

The Bet

Illinois has played recent games against Northwestern, Penn State, and Minnesota, three teams that rate out very similarly to this Maryland team. They beat Northwestern by 25, Minnesota by 27, and Penn State by 17. And two of those three games came on the road. Tonight, at home, I see the Illini pounding the overmatched Terrapins.

I am never going to expect a respectable team like Maryland to get completely blown out, but that could absolutely happen in this one. Give me the Fighting Illini of Illinois tonight at home, laying -8.5-points in a game that could get out of hand. Let’s call it an 82-68 final from Champaign, with the Illini easily winning and covering at home.

The Bet: Illinois Fighting Illini -8.5

My Pick
Illinois Fighting Illini -8.5
Jason Gray / Author

Jason is a true Las Vegas insider as he has called the sports betting capital of the world his home for sixteen years. Jason started out his career in gaming by running the biggest poker tournaments in the world and managing some of the biggest sportsbooks on the strip. Jason has transitioned out of casino operations and has been covering sports betting for the sports geek for just over two years. His main focus is on baseball, college basketball, and the NFL