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NCAA Tournament 2021 – #16 Drexel Dragons (12-7) vs #1 Illinois Fighting Illini (23-6)

Can Illinois Cover?

Our Drexel vs Illinois pick for this First Round Midwest Region contest has the Fighting Illini at -22.5 (-108). The best odds for the underdog Dragons come in at +23.0 (-105). This certainly appears to be a major mismatch. But like all big mismatches in March Madness, it can be tough for the favorite to cover. In the Colonial Athletic Association, Drexel finished fifth and in the finals of the conference tourney, the Dragons beat Elon 63-56. Over their last five games, they’ve won four and lost one. The Illinois Fighting Illini, who’ve won five of their last five matchups, finished second in the Big Ten with Michigan topping out by one-half game. The Fighting Illini won the conference tourney by beating Ohio State 91-88 in OT. The Dragons and Fighting Illini will meet on Friday, March 19 at 1:15 pm ET. The game will be held at Indiana Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis, IN. Read our great Wisconsin vs North Carolina prediction.

Drexel vs Illinois Pick – Stats

The Fighting Illini are outscoring the Dragons 81.4 to 71.5. Illinois is a tad better on field goal percentage (49.9 to 47.7) and threes (37.6 to 37.2). However, Drexel is the better free-throw team by far, The Dragons are completing 77.7% of their shots from the charity stripe, while the Fighting Illini are good on just 69.1%. These teams are fairly equal in terms of assists (16.3 to 15.2), steals (5.7 to 4.7), and blocks (2.8 to 2.4) with Illinois being just a tad better in each category. The Dragons committed fewer turnovers (12.9 to 13.1). When it comes to rebounding, the number-one seed outweighs the number-16 by almost seven, 40.4 to 33.9.

Key Players

For Drexel, two guards, Camren Wynter and Zach Walton, and two forwards, James Butler and T.J. Bickerstaff, are the difference makers. Wynter, the court commander, leads the Dragons with 16.8 PPG and 5.3 APG. He’s shooting 47% from the floor and 42.5% from downtown. Walton, a 48.0% field goal shooter, is across from him. The guard is recording 10.6 PPG and 3.9 RPG. In the paint, Butler, a 58.0% shooter, is a major force. He’s good for 12.9 PPG and 9.2 RPG. Although he’s only thrown up five threes all season, he has hit four of them. Bickerstaff is sinking 53.5% of his field goal attempts while scoring 10.6 PPG and grabbing 5.4 RPG.

At guard Ayo Dosunmu, the Fighting Illini have found the real thing. Dosunmu is averaging 20.7 PPG, 5.3 APG, and 6.3 RPG. He’s good on 48.8% of his shots and 38.7% of his threes. At center, Kofi Cockburn is powerful and accurate. A 65.5% shooter, Cockburn is averaging 16.6 PPG and 9.6 RPG. He’s also good for 1.8 BPG. Additionally, guards Andre Curbelo and Adam Miller are solid contributors. Curbelo is scoring 10.4 PPG, while Miller is putting in 9.1 PPG while making 4.0 assists and taking down 4.0 RPG.

Drexel vs Illinois Pick – Final Thoughts

In our Drexel vs Illinois pick, there are a few keys to the game. The Fighting Illini should dominate the boards and outperform the Dragons when it comes to field goals. However, the Dragons will stay in this contest through solid ball control and by going to the foul line. With these points in mind, we like Drexel to cover.

#16 Drexel Dragons vs #1 Illinois Fighting Illini

Drexel Dragons at +23.0 (-105)


Paul has been writing about sports betting and sports for more than a decade, offering picks on the NFL, MLB, NHL, and NBA, as well as on college sports and European football. He's written thousands of season and post-season previews, innumerable articles on sports betting strategies, and various books on sports and sports betting.

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