Rutgers vs. Illinois: Betting Odds, Picks, and Predictions (12/3/21)

Rutgers vs. Illinois Odds

As Big Ten action starts to heat up, we’ll start getting powerhouse matchups every night. This is one of them.

Rutgers has had a disastrous season, losing buy games to Lafayette and Massachusetts. However, the Scarlet Knights did just pick up a signature win over Clemson.

Meanwhile, Illinois has been stop-and-start. Wins over Notre Dame and Kansas State are coupled with losses to Marquette and Cincinnati. Andre Curbelo has not been the premier ball-handler he was hyped up to be.

But despite both teams underperforming, both are also loaded with talent and potential. This game will go a long way for both teams in discovering identity.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights Odds 

When the Scarlet Knights are playing well, they’re powered by two things.

The first: Defense. The Knights are generally stifling on the defensive end, and the interior defense has been excellent to this point in the season. However, the perimeter defense has been pathetic to this point, as Rutgers is 210th in 3-point defense (34.4%).

The second: Ron Harper Jr. When Rutgers started 7-1 last season, Harper was scoring close to 25 points per game, carrying the offense to wins. In the Clemson victory, he dropped 23 while grabbing nine boards and adding three assists.

Harper is the key to Scarlet Knights’ offense. While Geo Baker is an offensive threat in his own right, he’s too mercurial to be depended on. Harper needs to be the undisputed No. 1 option and he needs to play like it night-in and night-out.

If the Knights defend and Harper scores, Rutgers will win games.

Illinois Illini Odds

In the pre-season, Illinois was my pick to win the Big Ten. Although Ayo Dosunmu was gone, Kofi Cockburn returned, and Curbelo and Trent Frazier were more than capable of running the offense.

Unfortunately, Curbelo and Frazier have not lived up to their expectations.

Especially Curbelo, who has been prone to blowups in the early season. Against Marquette, he turned the ball over seven times, including one disastrous one that led to a game-winning transition bucket.

On the season, Curbelo has just a 5.5:4 assist-to-turnover ratio, which is appallingly bad. Moreover, he’s only scoring nine points per game with an 84.2 ORtg.

Meanwhile, Trent Frazier hasn’t shouldered any sort of scoring load. He’s averaging 8.4 points per game while shooting just 31% from the field and 30% from 3. His scoring is needed with Dosunmu gone, and that hasn’t happened yet.

Of course, things may open for those two with the return of Cockburn. Cockburn was suspended for the first three games of the season but has averaged almost 27 points per game in the four matches since his return. He’s shooting a whopping 71% from the field and adding 9.5 rebounds in the process.

Prediction and Pick

My pick: Rutgers +9 or better

Rutgers has its problems to deal with, but the Illini shouldn’t be laying almost double digits this early in the season.

Illinois doesn’t have the cohesive offensive unit to blowout anybody, especially a Steve Pikiell-led defense. Rutgers doesn’t force a lot of turnovers, but the team is stout on the interior (43.4 2P% allowed) and will steal the ball (11.4% steal rate, 72nd nationally). Considering the Illini’s inability to control the ball, I’ll take my chances with Rutgers.

Rutgers also plays at a very slow pace, ranking 314th in adjusted tempo. The total for this game is only around 133. So, in a low-scoring game with a low total, grabbing a large underdog is always a sharp play.

If I’m catching double digits with the Scarlet Knights, I’ll be betting them.

Tanner joined Lineups to cover everything, but he has vast experience in, and unlimited passion for, Major League Baseball and NCAA Basketball. He’s a McGill University grad and former (Canadian) Division-I alpine ski racer who now spends his time drinking beer and betting home underdogs. Patrick Mahomes is a poor man’s Tom Brady.

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