The Fighting Illini have probably already wrapped up a #1 seed for the NCAA tournament heading into the March 13th Iowa vs Illinois matchup. They can cement it in stone with a win over the Hawkeyes on Saturday, punching a ticket to the Big Ten Championship game for the first time since 2008.
Iowa has an especially fast turnaround, outlasting Wisconsin 62-57 in the Friday late game. Saturday’s tip is set for 3:30, which doesn’t do anything for the health of Joe Wieskamp. The Iowa Senior sprained his ankle in Sunday’s win over the Badgers, and played 35 minutes in Friday’s win even while listed as questionable. The Illini are just a -3.5 favorite in this matchup of #2 and #3 seeds.
Garza Ready to Shoulder Load
By all accounts Wieskamp should be good to go in the March 13th Iowa vs Illinois game. That eases a lot of pressure on POY favorite Luka Garza, who has been his usual solid self in back-to-back games with the Badgers. Garza put up 21 points and 16 rebounds in the regular season finale and 24 and 9 in Friday’s victory. Wisconsin boasts the #1 defense in the Big Ten.
Iowa ranks 4th in the whole country in scoring, putting up 85.0 ppg. The Badgers really slowed the pace on Friday night, but that may have actually helped the Hawkeyes for the back-to-back, a more methodical game instead of up-and-down the court relentlessly. Iowa finished the regular season with wins in 7 of their last 8, but were held to 57 in their loss at Michigan during that stretch.
The first and only meeting between Iowa and Illinois this season was anything but plodding. Illinois pulled out the 80-75 win at home as -3 point favorites. Wieskamp had 19, as did Garza which is actually a good job of keeping the big man in check.
Illinois on a Momentum Swing
The Fighting Illini are one of the most dangerous teams in the country and they come into Saturday’s meeting having won 12 of their last 13 overall. That includes a three game win streak to close out the regular season against Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio State – all ranked at the time and all road games for Illinois.
Illinois’ current run also includes a 90-68 tournament win over Rutgers on Friday night. Compare the Illini’s opener to Iowa’s, Illinois was able to shake out the cob webs and coast to victory while Iowa had to grind one out late vs. a tough defense.
Ayo Dosunmu had 23 points to lead the win over Rutgers. Dosunmu missed the Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Michigan wins with a face laceration, but had 19 in his return in the regular season finale against Ohio State. Dosunmu had 25 in the first meeting with Iowa, and Trent Frazier had 24. 7’1″ Kofi Cockburn was held to 9 points by the Iowa defense in that game.
Free March 13th Iowa vs Illinois Pick
How much will the quick turnaround effect Iowa? Illinois was able to coast to a win in their opener but the Hawkeyes had to work harder – and played the late game. Illinois has an NBA-caliber inside-out combo in Dosunmu and Cockburn, but also have the Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year in Andre Curbelo. Ultimately a deep Illinois team runs away with this one.
Illinois 79 – Iowa 71
Free Pick: Illinois -3.5