Last Updated Mar 16, 2023, 4:28 PM
Illinois vs. Arkansas Picks, Predictions, Odds
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2023 NCAA Tournament Picks
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Eric Musselman is looking to lead the Arkansas Razorbacks to the Elite Eight for the third straight season. Musselman previously accomplished the feat with Arkansas as a No. 3 seed in 2021 and a No. 4 seed in 2022, but this is the toughest test of the bunch as the Razorbacks are a No. 8 seed and will face a strong first round opponent in the Illinois Fighting Illini. Illinois knocked off UCLA and Texas on a neutral court earlier this season, and this program has turned into one of the better ones in the Big Ten under Brad Underwood.
On Thursday, March 16, 2023, the Arkansas Razorbacks will take on the Illinois Fighting Illini. Illinois might have a bit of a home court advantage here as this game will be played at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa. Tip off is slated for 4:30 p.m. ET on TBS, and the winner will face defending national champions Kansas on Saturday barring the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history.
Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Arkansas Razorbacks Betting Prediction
The Arkansas Razorbacks have one of the highest ceilings of any team in the NCAA Tournament. Arkansas has two players that could be lottery picks in Nick Smith Jr. and Anthony Black, and Jordan Walsh and Ricky Council IV are potential draft selections too. When the Razorbacks were firing on all cylinders earlier in the season, they appeared to be a national title contender, but Smith ended up missing almost two months with a knee injury. Arkansas hasn't been the same team since his return, so I'm going to buck the consensus and go with Illinois to pull off the first round upset.
Best Bet: Illinois +2 (-110)
Score Prediction: Illinois 74, Arkansas 70
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Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Arkansas Razorbacks Betting Odds
Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Arkansas Razorbacks Betting Resources
Date: Thursday, Mar. 16, 2023
TV-Time: TBS, 4:30 p.m. ET
Venue: Wells Fargo Arena
Location: Des Moines, Iowa
Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Arkansas Razorbacks Betting Stats
Illinois Fighting Illini
Straight Up (SU), Against the Spread (ATS), Over-Under (O/U)
Points Per Game (PPG), Opponents Points Per Game (OPPG)
Illinois Fighting Illini Betting Analysis
There are two major concerns with Illinois on offense. The Fighting Illini can't hit threes, and they struggle at the free throw line. Illinois is making just 30.9% of its three-point attempts as a team, and Matthew Mayer has been the most efficient shooter at 33.8%. Mayer and leading scorer Terrence Shannon Jr. are solid shooters from the charity stripe, but the team is making just 68% of its freebies.
Illinois does do an excellent job with its interior offense though. The Fighting Illini are making 55.3% of their two-point attempts, and that ranks 18th in the nation. Dain Dainja and Coleman Hawkins have been very effective in the frontcourt, and every rotation player on the roster is making at least 49.4% of their two-point attempts. Additionally, this is one of the tallest teams in the country, so Illinois does a very good job of cleaning up on the glass.
The Illini rank 32nd in defensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy. They have a very strong interior defense, allowing opponents to make just 45.3% of their shots inside the perimeter. Mayer, Dainja, and Hawkins all rank in the top 275 nationally in block percentage, and that has Illinois ranking seventh as a team in that department. This defense doesn't force a ton of turnovers though, and they are merely decent at defending the three-point line.
Arkansas Razorbacks Betting Analysis
This has been a disappointing year for Arkansas considering the Razorbacks brought in three standout freshmen. Nick Smith Jr. is considered a lock to be a lottery pick even though he has struggled since returning from injury. Smith is averaging just 14.0 PPG, and he is hitting less than 40% of his field goals. Smith is very talented, but he hasn't made much of an impact in other areas, and he has had some trouble finding his shooting touch since returning from injury.
There's a decent chance that Anthony Black ends up being a lottery pick too. Black is more of a stat sheet stuffer than Smith, as he is averaging 12.8 PPG, 5.1 RPG, and 4.2 APG. He is a quality scorer in the paint and has a decent mid-range game as he is making 52.8% of his two-point attempts. However, he has been unable to stretch the floor with his perimeter shooting, and that has limited this offense. The bright side is that Musselman has identified the team's struggles from beyond the arc, so they take a ton of twos.
Arkansas ranks 15th in defensive efficiency per Pomeroy. The Razorbacks rank 22nd in effective field goal percentage on defense, as they do a very good job of playing perimeter and interior defense. That's a credit to Musselman considering how young this team is at some positions, and it can be hard getting one-and-done freshmen to buy in on that end. They rank in the top 25 in block percentage and steal percentage too as Black, Makhi Mitchell, Makhel Mitchell, and Ricky Council IV are all quality defenders.