The Fighting Illini of Illinois reminded everyone last night why many people saw them as a potential Final Four threat in the preseason, as they knocked off the 7th ranked Iowa Hawkeyes. It has been and up and down season for the Illini, but the win over the Hawkeyes last night put Illinois in second place in the Big 10 standings, within shouting distance of first place Michigan.
Illinois has now won six of their last eight games, including quality victories over Penn State, Indiana, Purdue, Northwestern, and now Iowa. Ayo Dosunmu led the Illini with 25 points, and in the battle of the bigs, Kofi Cockburn managed to slow down the presumptive national player of the year Luka Garza. Cockburn came up a point short of a double-double with 9 points and 10 boards, while Garza struggled with just 19 points and 4 rebounds, one of his worst games of the season.
BIG TEN BATTLE ?
No. 19 Illinois takes down No. 7 Iowa in Champaign! pic.twitter.com/1oLFqVNE5w
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) January 30, 2021
With the loss, Iowa now drops to 4th place in the Big 10 after losing back-to-back games. I am not sure it’s time to sound the alarm bells just yet for the Hawkeyes, but we all know just how tough it can be in the nation’s top conference, and Iowa needs to bust out of this slump before they slide out of the top-10 nationally. For today’s free daily betting pick, we will head to the Big East for the game between Butler and Xavier.
- Xavier Musketeers (10-2) at Butler Bulldogs (5-8)
- Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indianapolis
- 2:30 PM PST
- TV: FS1
The Butler Bulldogs host the Xavier Musketeers tonight in a Big East conference game. The Bulldogs are hoping to get hot and play themselves onto the right side of the bubble after a slow start. Butler picked up a huge win over Creighton in their last home game, and a win over Xavier would be a nice addition to the Bulldog’s resume.
— Butler Basketball (@ButlerMBB) January 30, 2021
For Xavier, the Musketeers are looking for just their 2nd road win of the season tonight at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Xavier is 10-2 and 3-2 in Big East play, and the Musketeers find themselves squarely on the bubble for the NCAA tournament. After playing ten of their first twelve games at home, the Musketeers will play their next three games on the road at Butler, at DePaul, and at Villanova.
Butler Bulldogs (5-8)
It would take a lot to get the Butler Bulldogs into the NCAA tournament conversation. Butler has played a brutal schedule with an SOS of 21st in the nation, and while many of their losses were to good teams, they need to be able to pick up some signature wins if they want any real shot at dancing in March. The Bulldogs do have nice wins over Creighton, Providence, Georgetown, and DePaul, and while they have struggled badly on the road, they have been solid at home with a 4-2 record at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Butler is happy to have their senior leader Aaron Thompson back on the floor after the guard missed several games earlier in the season. Without Thompson, the Bulldogs lost games to Indiana, Southern Illinois, Providence, and Seton Hall. Since Thompson rejoined the team earlier this month, they have gone 3-3 against tough competition. Thompson is a four-year starter for Butler, and with their main facilitator back on the floor, they have been playing much better.
Xavier Musketeers (10-2)
Just how good is this Xavier team? Well, we are about to find out. The Musketeers have managed to play nearly all of their games at home, and while their 10-2 record is impressive, we don’t know how well they are going to play in a hostile environment. The only two road games for Xavier this year have been at Creighton and at Cincinnati. They lost to the Blue Jays and beat a Bearcats team that won’t be playing meaningful games in March.
The Musketeers plays an efficient offense and are one of the better passing teams in the nation. Paul Scruggs is the motor of the offensive attack for the Musketeers, as he averages 14 points and 6 assists a game. When Scruggs hasn’t played well, it has cost his team. Against Creighton, he had only 11 points and 4 assists and turned the ball over twice. Against Seton Hall, Scruggs had his worst game of the season with just 6 points on 3-9 shooting from the field. The Musketeers lost both games.
Who Do I Like?
This line opened up with Xavier laying a point, and the sharps quickly jumped on Butler as a home dog and moved the number towards the Bulldogs to where it stands now at Butler -1. I can see what the sharps liked in Butler, as they have played well at home, particularly since Aaron Thompson returned. While I don’t think that Butler is going to be able to get back into real contention in the Big East, they have plenty of quality games left on their schedule, and the NCAA selection committee does take into account injuries when they are looking at a team’s resume.
If the Bulldogs can add a couple wins over the likes of Xavier, DePaul, Villanova, Marquette, and St. John’s, the home games left on their schedule, and maybe pick up a couple of wins on the road, they could sneak their way into March Madness. I know that is a lot of what-ifs, but this is a different Butler team with Aaron Thompson on the floor. I think this improbable run starts tonight, as I see Butler winning this game.
This is going to be a tightly contested game, but Butler is always great at home, and I think that they find a way to gut out a hard-fought victory tonight in this one. Winning on the road in conference play is the hardest thing to do in all of college basketball, and the Musketeers have yet to do it this season. Until a team shows me that they can win in hostile territory, particularly in league play, I have no choice but to fade them.
Butler plays a very slow pace, and I see them grinding this game down to a halt and winning an ugly at home. They play stout defense, and this could be one of those first team to 60-points wins type of games. I’ll lean on the home team tonight in this one, as Butler is going to win and cover at home against a Xavier team that is untested on the road. Give me the Butler Bulldogs laying -1-point tonight against Xavier. I’ll call the final score at 65-61 Butler.