Now that the calendar has flipped to 2024, conference action is really going to start to ramp up throughout the sport of college basketball. The Northwestern Wildcats are set to visit the Illinois Fighting Illini on Tuesday night for a big battle in the Big Ten Conference.
Northwestern has spent some time in the AP Top 25 this season, but they are not currently in that position ahead of this matchup. The Wildcats are still sitting at 10-2 on the season, and they have rattled off three straight wins.
Illinois has moved all the way up to number 11 in the most recent poll, and they have faced a grueling schedule up to this point. The Fighting Illini are also sitting at 10-2 on the year, and they have already picked up a road win in conference play.
The Illinois Fighting Illini are 4.5-point betting favorites over the Northwestern Wildcats in this Big Ten Conference showdown.
Wildcats Winning With Defense
This Northwestern Wildcats team has a proven superstar leading the offense this season, but they are a team that wants to win with defense. Northwestern is allowing just over 63 points per game, and they have held two of their last three opponents to less than 50 points in a game.
It’s going to take a huge defensive effort to slow down the Fighting Illini, but Northwestern will need to shoot the ball well to win this game. Northwestern shares the ball extremely well, but it’s Boo Buie that will need to set the tone on offense.
Buie comes into this Big Ten battle with 17.9 points per game, and he has come up with a ton of huge shots throughout his career.
Fighting Illini Can Fly
The Fighting Illini are going to be without Terrence Shannon Jr. for the foreseeable as the All American guard is now suspended. Shannon was scoring nearly 22 points per game for Illinois, and that helped the team average nearly 83 points per game.
Even though Shannon is not going to be in the lineup, this is still a team with a ton of talent on offense, and they can score in many ways. There are three other players averaging over 10 points per game, and Illinois will attack Northwestern on the perimeter.
Not only has Illinois been great on offense this season, but they are also holding opponents to just 65.5 points per game. Illinois looks like it has all of the pieces, even without Shannon, to go on a big run in March.
Fighting Illini Roll at Home
This Northwestern team is good enough to be near the top of the Big Ten Conference this season, but this is going to be a tough matchup. Northwestern has proven to be a great defensive team, but they will have to score to win in this game.
Illinois might be playing without their best player, but they still have a ton of talent on this roster for the rest of the year. The Fighting Illini are going to find a way to get the tempo of this game going, and they will light up the scoreboard at home.
Bet on the shorthanded Illinois Fighting Illini to beat their in-state rivals by at least five points on Tuesday night.