Penn State vs. Illinois: Predictions, Odds, Best Bets (3/9/23) – NCAAB

On the second day of the Big Ten Tournament, a matchup between 10 and 7 seeds gets underway between the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Illinois Fighting Illini.  Penn State comes in as the 10 seed with Illinois being the 7.  Both of these teams have tournament aspirations and a conference tourney win would certainly help their chances and seeding.  Check below to get a full preview into this matchup as well as betting predictions:

Penn State vs. Illinois Prediction

Penn State has been hovering right on the cusp of making the tournament all season and especially down the stretch in the season.  Their most recent win against Maryland on a buzzer beater might’ve helped cement them in the NCAA Tournament, but a win against Illinois would certainly make that more certain.  The Nittany Lions finished with a 10-10 conference record and were middle of the pack of the Big Ten season.  They stole wins against teams like Indiana and Iowa but also dropped a game to Nebraska and just were never able to move up to the top of the ladder.  Penn State were led by their guard play all season and will most likely be looking to that in this matchup.

Illinois had a similar route of being middle of the pack most of the Big Ten season.  They finished 11-9 and their biggest issue was consistency.  They had many tight games with top teams in the conference but also dropped games to Ohio State and struggled to close out games at times.  Perimeter shooting has been their key to winning, especially with Matthew Mayer.

These two teams only faced off once in the regular season, with Penn State coming out victorious 93-81.  Jalen Pickett went off for a miraculous performance of 41 points in that matchup.  You can’t expect that in every matchup as he averages 18 PPG, but he does have the power to go off.  These teams are matched pretty evenly on the offensive and defensive side, so will truly come down to the team that might be more tournament ready.  Penn State is currently projected as an 11 seed in Joe Lunardi’s mock NCAA Tournament bracket.  A win against Illinois would help them possibly rise higher.  A loss could potentially knock them out.  Illinois is currently projected at an 8 seed.  A win and Big Ten Tourney run could definitely help them jump to a 7 or 6 seed.

Penn State Vs. Illinois Prediction: Illinois -2.5

I like Penn State and think they are coming off an emotional win on senior night, but I believe Illinois is the more well-rounded team.  You can’t count on Pickett putting over 40 points in this matchup.  Illinois also has a deeper supporting cast, especially down low with Dain Dainja.  Forward Coleman Hawkins is also superb and averages 6.4 RPG.  I think the combo of Shannon Jr. and Mayer will be the most important factor in this game, and if they are able to get up on the scoreboard early.  Mayer is shooting 34.7% from deep and also averaging 13 PPG.

Penn State will need guard Seth Lundy and Forward Camren Wynter to have big games to stay in this one.  Wynter has been getting hot recently and has hit two game-winners for the Nittany Lions in their most recent games.  Their hot streak run might fade out a bit in this matchup if Illinois is able to control the glass.  Expect a close game overall but with the line at -2.5, Illinois finds a way to get shots to fall late and wins by around 4 or 5.  The Nittany Lions should still be a projected NCAA Tournament team if they play a well fought game that ends close.

Penn State vs. Illinois Betting Odds

Illinois are small spread favorites at a line of -2.5.  This shouldn’t be a surprise given Illinois with the seeding advantage.  2.5 points is close so many expect Penn State to make this a competitive finish that could come down to the wire.  The over/under line is currently 141.5 total, which would put each team’s scoring finish right above 70 points.  This makes sense considering both teams average right around 72 and 74 PPG.  You can get Illinois moneyline at -145, or you can take Penn State as underdogs at +118.  ESPN Analytics predicts Illinois to win at 62.9%.  Looking at Kenpom’s analytical rankings, Illinois has the advantage as well.  The Fighting Illini are currently ranked at 32nd with Penn State ranked at 50th.

Key Matchup

Terrence Shannon Jr. vs. Jalen Pickett

The matchup to keep your eyes on will be that of the two guards in Terrence Shannon Jr. and Jalen Pickett.  Both leading scorers for their team and each were named to the All-Big Ten First Team.  Pickett averages 18 PPG for the Nittany Lions with Terrence Shannon Jr. averaging 17.1 PPG.  Pickett had the scoring advantage in the first matchup, but Shannon Jr. was still able to put up 20 points.  If Shannon Jr. is able to get the scoring advantage this time and spread the ball to his supporting cast, the Illini will be moving on to face Northwestern on Friday.

Jack is a Hoosier by birth and Hoosier by alum. Full of hot takes but sharper predictions. Residing now in the Chicago area. When he's not chowing down on deep dish pizza and Italian beef, he's watching and betting sports. Junkie for everything CBB, NBA, NFL, CFB, and MLB. Here to feed you a system to follow that might even be better than the one Tom Brady was gifted his whole career.

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