#5 Illinois vs Minnesota Road to March Madness

#5 Illinois vs Minnesota Road to March Madness | 2021 NCAA Basketball Expert Analysis

Written by on February 19, 2021

Minnesota is squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble, so the Gophers could use a resume-building win over No. 5 Illinois – one of the Big Dance favorites – on Saturday in the Twin Cities. However, Illinois will be favored on the NCAAB odds.

How to Bet Illinois at Minnesota NCAA Basketball Odds & TV Info

Last Meeting

These schools opened the Big Ten schedule against one another on Dec. 15 at Illinois and the Illini rolled to a 92-65 win when they were ranked 13th. Kofi Cockburn scored a career-high 33 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in only 25 minutes. He became the first player to have at least 33 points and 13 rebounds in 25 minutes or less against a Division I opponent since Michael Beasley had 33 and 15 for Kansas State in 22 minutes versus Iowa State in January 2008. The Gophers jumped out to a 15-8 lead but finished the first half 3 for 26 from the field. They shot 23% percent before the break overall. The Gophers were 19 of 69 (28%) from the field, while the Illini shot 34 for 64 (53%).

Why Bet on Illinois? | 2021 NCAA Basketball Expert Analysis

Illinois (15-5) won its sixth in a row on Tuesday but didn’t look great in a 73-66 victory over a terrible Northwestern team. After trailing by 18, The Wildcats were within one in the second half.

That’s when Ayo Dosunmu again took control of the game, scoring eight of the Illini’s final 13 points, including a dagger three-pointer with :39 left, to seal the Illini’s 11th Big Ten win.

Northwestern won the second half 40-35. It marked the ‘Cats’ second game in Big Ten play this season with over 40 points in the second half. The ‘Cats were aggressive on the defensive end, forcing Illini 10 turnovers in the first half. The Wildcats have won or tied the first-half turnover battle in 16 out of 19 games this season. Ultimately, Northwestern won the turnover battle 15-12, marking the 13th time Northwestern has turned the ball over fewer times than its opponent this season.

The Illini shot 60% from the field before the break to Northwestern’s 37% and led 38-26 at halftime.

“It was a thing of beauty, the first seven, eight minutes,” Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. “But then Kofi (Cockburn) got into foul trouble.”

The Illini were led by double-digit performances from four different players, including Dosunmu’s 13 points and five assists, and Kofi Cockburn’s fourth-straight double-double (17 points, 10 rebounds). Both Adam Miller and Georgi Bezhanishvili dropped 10 points.

Cockburn’s 15 double-doubles rank second in the nation, and he has recorded a double-double in 12 of 14 B1G games this season. Cockburn is just one of three players from the high-major conferences currently averaging a double-double (17.4 ppg, 10.6 rpg).

Illinois’ 11-3 conference record is its best through 14 games since the 2005 Big Ten championship team started 13-0 en route to a 15-1 league record. Over the last two Big Ten seasons, Illinois has the best win percentage (.706) and the most wins (24).

Why Bet on Minnesota? | 2021 NCAA Basketball Expert Analysis

The Gophers (13-9) lost their second in a row Wednesday, 82-72 at Indiana. The Hoosiers pulled away with a 18-2 run. Minnesota took a 55-53 lead with 8:35 to play in the second half. Indiana immediately responded by scoring 18 of the game’s next 20 points to take a 71-57 lead with 3:09 to play.

“We played team defense. We finally locked in. We strung a couple of stops together. That led to that gap we made at the end of the game,” Indiana’s Aljami Durham said.

The IU defense held Minnesota to 4-of-20 (20.0%) from the 3-point line, the least amount of made triples for a Big Ten foe this season. Indiana has held opponents to 25.0% shooting or worse from behind the arc in six contests this season. The Hoosiers are 6-0 in those games. Minnesota is now 0-9 playing on an opponent’s home court this season.

Jamal Mashburn, Jr. and Marcus Carr each scored 19 points to lead the Golden Gophers. Brandon Johnson had 12 points and Tre’ Williams 11. Minnesota junior guard Gabe Kalscheur missed the game and is out indefinitely after suffering a hand injury in Tuesday’s practice. He is 84 points shy of scoring 1,000 for his career.

Kalscheur has struggled to shoot for a second consecutive season — 32 percent from the field and 24 percent from 3-point range — but his poise led to the win over then-No. 24 Purdue last week. He is considered Minnesota’s best perimeter defender and one of its most fundamentally sound contributors.

Expert Prediction

  • Illinois 77, Minnesota 73

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