Illinois is 5-4 in the Big Ten so them going against 4-5 Wisconsin on Saturday seems like a fairly even keeled contest. UW is slumping hard coming into this meeting though, losers of five of their last six which is why it’s weird they are just +1.5 underdog in this Illinois at Wisconsin betting matchup from Madison.
The Fighting Illini (14-6 overall) recently beat the Badgers 79-69 at home on January 7th as -7.5 point favorites. That was the fifth straight win in the head to head series for Illinois, who just beat Ohio State 69-60 on Tuesday to cover a -4 point spread at home. The Badgers were humiliated 73-55 at Maryland on Wednesday, likely a factor in why 58% of the betting public likes the visitors to win and cover here.
Why Illinois Can Cover -1.5 Points
The Fighting Illini ran into a buzzsaw last Thursday, falling 80-65 at home against Indiana as they had no answer for potential Player of the Year Trayce Jackson-Davis who went for 35 points. There are two good things to come out of that game – 1) Wisconsin doesn’t have any scorer near the capability of Jackson-Davis and 2) Illinois has won five of six besides that loss to the Hoosiers.
Brad Underwood’s club did a great job of bouncing back from the Indiana loss, beating Ohio State 69-60 on Tuesday in Champaign behind a balanced attack that saw Terrence Shannon, Jr. lead the way with 17 points. Shannon, Jr. had 26 in the loss to the Hoosiers, and has 24+ in three of his last six which once again Wisconsin doesn’t have an answer for on the offensive end.
Illinois has some potency on offense with the likes of Shannon, Jr., Coleman Hawkins (who had 20 in the first meeting with the Badgers), and Matthew Mayer (19+ points in two of the last four) but their defense has also held opponents to 60 points or less in three of the last five. Saturday’s game could end up being very low scoring (O/U 130.5).
Why Wisconsin Can Cover +1.5 Points
Wisconsin has put the BAD in Badgers the last two games with a 66-63 loss against Northwestern as +2.5 underdogs and then absolutely getting annihilated by 18 points against Maryland this week to not even come close to covering +5 points. Both of those games were on the road though, and Wisconsin comes back to the Kohl Center with a 7-2 record at home.
The Badgers should be better on Saturday as Tyler Wahl plays his second home game after missing two contests with an ankle injury. Wahl, the Badgers leading scorer with 12.8 ppg, had 10 points and 5 rebounds against Penn State in Madison on January 17th.
Wisconsin lost by 10 in Champaign earlier in the month, but that’s not a horrible showing considering it was the first game they were without Wahl due to his ankle injury. Chucky Hepburn stepped up with 22 points while 7-footer Steven Crowl added 20 and 12 rebounds. If the Badgers can get that type of production again from those two while also integrating Wahl into the lineup Wisconsin has a great chance here.
Free Illinois at Wisconsin Betting Pick
Does Illinois being just a -1.5 point favorite have ‘trap’ written all over it? The argument could be made, as the Fighting Illini won by 10 over UW at home earlier this month and the Badgers have been struggling as losers of five of their last six.
This would be a great spot to hammer the Fighting Illini, but they are incredibly inconsistent with a 13 point loss at Northwestern this season and getting demolished by 22 in the rivalry Braggin Rights’ game against Missouri. The Badgers aren’t great, but the line is saying they get this one.
Free Pick: Wisconsin +1.5