Northwestern Wildcats at Illinois Fighting Illini – NCAAM February 16

Northwestern (6-12, 3-11) at No. 5 Illinois (14-5, 10-3)

  • Time: 6PM PST | 8PM CST | 9PM EST
  • Location: State Farm Center, Champaign, IL
  • TV: Big Ten Network

Opening Tip

Northwestern has lost four in a row at Illinois and the Wildcats are a decided underdog as they have lost 11 in a row dating back to Dec. 26 when they defeated Ohio State, 71-70. Illinois has won five in a row – including overtime wins over Nebraska and Indiana – dating back to a Jan. 16 loss to Ohio State.

The Illini are fourth in the NET rankings and also show a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament committee’s initial rankings.

Illinois leads this series over Northwestern, 139-42, as the Illini sport a 70-14 advantage in Champaign.

The Illini took an 81-56 win over the Wildcats in Evanston back on Jan. 7. The Illini trailed by 16 points in the first half, but were able to accentuate their much higher skill level for a 41-point turnaround as they outscored Northwestern, 53-13 in the second half and held the Wildcats to 8.3 percent from the field. Kofi Cockburn had 18 points and 12 rebounds for Illinois.

Vs. The Spread

Northwestern:

  • The Wildcats are 2-8-1 ATS in their last 11 games
  • Northwestern is 1-10-1 ATS in it’s last 12 games
  • The Wildcats are 2-14 SU in their last 16 games at Illinois

Illinois:

  • The total has gone UNDER in 7 of the Illini’s last 10 games
  • The UNDER has been the play in 6 of the last 7 Illini home games
  • The total has gone OVER in 4 of the last 5 Illinois-Northwestern contests

Last Time Out

Rutgers was the last team to tame the Wildcats as the Scarlet Knights took a 64-50 win at the RAC on Saturday. Anthony Gaines had 11 points and six rebounds as the Wildcats absorbed their 11th loss in a row.

Illinois won it’s fourth in a row on the road as the Illini stopped Nebraska, 77-72, in overtime. Point guard Ayo Dosunmu had a career high 31 points as he had 15 straight points for the Illini from 3:21 mark of the second half through the 4:00 mark in OT.

Teams Spread Money Line Total Points
Northwestern +13 (-110) +700 O 143.5 (-115)
Illinois -13 (-110) -1100 U 143.5 (-105)

Advantage, Wildcats

With Northwestern being such a decisive underdog, it’s hard to find any real advantage. They had a string of four Big Ten losses by 10 points or less before the 14-point loss at Rutgers on Saturday. The Wildcats have assisted 61.9 percent of the field goals, but the speed and athleticism of the Illini is sure to take NU out of any type of offensive sets with which they could accentuate any type of rhythm.

Key Northwestern Stat:

The real strength of this team has been it’s three-point game as the Wildcats shoot 36 percent from distance. That number has gone down over the last four games as well as they have shot 30.1 percent while 42.1 percent of the ‘Cats shots have been from three during the stretch of games. Boo Buie and Chase Audige lead Northwestern with 30 makes while Miller Kopp has 29.

X-Factor:

How clean of a game can the Wildcats play with no turnovers and making the extra pass inside of their offense will be important. They only turn the ball over 11.2 times per game, but Illinois has gotten better in scoring off turnovers as the Illini have had double figures in that category in nine of their last 11 games.

Advantage, Illini

Ayo Dosunmu (21.7 ppg, 5.1 apg) and Kofi Cockburn (17.4 ppg, 10.7 rpg) are potentially the best inside-outside tandem in college basketball. Dosunmu is a playmaker extraordinaire as his points average ranks eighth in the NCAA. Cockburn is the only player in the game which is averaging over 15 points and 10 rebounds while shooting 65 percent from the field. Da’Monte Williams and Trent Frazier (38.5% -3) can’t be ignored as Williams leads the nation in three-point shooting percentage at 59 percent. Illinois is eighth in offensive efficiency, per kenpom.com, and much of that is sure to the three-point game which stands at 39 percent.

Key Illinois Stat:

The Illini should dominate the boards in this matchup as they are 19th in the nation in defensive rebound rate in taking 77.1 percent of their opponents misses. The also get back 32.9 percent of their own shots in crafting a (+10) rebounding differential. Cockburn (10.6 rpg) and Dosunmu (6.2 rpg) dominate this stat as well.

X-Factor:

When Trent Frazier gets in rhythm and heats up, he can take over a game – even with the greatness of Dosunmu and Cockburn. Frazier has scored in double figures in four of the games in this five game winning streak as he has averaged 14.8 points while shooting 36.8 percent from behind the arc, making an average of 2.8 triples.

Winner: Illinois (-13) 83, Northwestern 63
Moneyline: Illinois Fighting Illini (-1100)
Over-Under: Take UNDER 143.5

The Bets
Illinois Fighting Illini -13
-110
Illinois Fighting Illini
-1100
UNDER 143.5
-105
Sub Categories:
Kenneth Cross / Author

Kenneth Cross is a new entry to The Sports Geek staff as he has 25 years of experience in print, broadcast, and internet sports journalism. Cross is a lover of all sports, but college basketball is his passion. He estimates that he has seen around 1,500 college basketball games - live and in-person - and hopes that grows this season. If you listen to Radio, you have likely heard him on Sundays covering the Carolina Panthers for some 20 years. Now in Tampa Bay, he works as a national radio correspondent.