Tonight, Jan 19 at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wisconsin, the Illinois Fighting Illini (10-9 Overall, 0-6 Big Ten) will play the Wisconsin Badgers (9-10 Overall, 2-4 Big Ten). The Fighting Illini, who do not yet have a Big Ten win this season, sit alone in last place in the conference. The Badgers, who are 2-4 in the Big Ten, are ninth in the conference and 4.5 games out of first place. Our Illinois plays Wisconsin 2018 NCAA basketball Big Ten pick offers the Badgers at -4.5 and the over/under at 137.5.
The question in this matchup is who will finally end their losing streak? Will it be Illinois, which has lost four straight games, or Wisconsin, which has lost the last three. The Fighting Illini last beat the out-of-conference Grand Canyon Antelopes on Dec. 30 by a score of 62-58. Their last game and loss was to Nebraska, but they kept the score close with the final being 64-63. Prior to their three-game skid, the Badgers had won five in a row. Their last win occurred on Jan. 2 when they beat Indiana 71-61. Their three losses were to Rutgers (64-60), Nebraska (63-59), and on Jan. 16 to #3 Purdue 78-50.
Illinois is averaging 79.0 PPG and allowing opponents 71.5. The Badgers have a tough time scoring, putting up just 68.1 PPG, but their defense is sound, as they are giving up 65.6 PPG. Illinois tops Wisconsin in rebounds 37.3 to 31.7 and in assists 14.5 to 12.7. They are also averaging 2.4 more SPG. Shooting percentages for both teams are in the mid 40-percent range, however the Fighting Illini certainly best the Badgers in free throw percentage, which stands at 74% to 69%. The team three-point conversion rates are similar with Wisconsin holding two percentage-point advantage.
Players to Watch
For the Fighting Illini, three players take the lead in scoring, including their top point-maker junior forward Leron Black (14.4 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 54 FG%). Black also leads in rebounds. Right behind him in rebounds, with 5.6 PG, and close in points, with 10.6 PG, is the other junior forward Michael Finke. Freshman guard Trent Frazier is averaging a healthy 11.0 PPG. Aaron Jordan, 9.8 PPG, is good on 52% of his shots beyond the arc.
Junior forward Ethan Happ (16.7 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 3.6 APG) is the leader and playmaker for the Badgers. Happ is hitting 56% from the field. Freshman guard Brad Davison (11.7 PPG, 2.3 APG, 43 FG%) is another important contributor. Sophomore guard D’Mitrik Trice, who is the team’s third top scorer averaging 9.4 PPG, has missed the last nine games and has been upgraded to questionable for tonight’s contest. His return would be helpful.
Our Illinois Plays Wisconsin 2018 NCAA Basketball Big Ten Pick
The Fighting Illini appear to be outmatched on paper, and they have lost to Wisconsin in their last two meetings. However, Illinois has kept games close with many teams that appear to be far better and deeper than they are. Although the spread is fairly small considering the matchup, we are taking the visitors in this one. Our Illinois plays Wisconsin 2018 NCAA basketball Big Ten pick is the Fighting Illini at +4.5. Traditionally, these two teams play low-scoring games and their shot percentages this season certainly indicate that should be the case tonight. We are taking under 137.5.