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Wisconsin Badgers vs. Illinois Fighting Illini Prediction: Big Ten Championship Features Two High-Powered Offenses

Written by: Andrew Norton
Published March 17, 2024
10 min read

On Sunday, the Wisconsin Badgers will seek their fourth win in as many days against the Illinois Fighting Illini. The winner of this game will be awarded the Big Ten Tournament championship! While neither team is desperate for an automatic bid, as both will be at-large teams, a conference tournament championship is still a coveted prize for any program. Below, we analyze this matchup between two highly efficient offensive attacks, including the betting odds for both teams and our prediction and betting pick. Let’s get into it!

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Wisconsin Badgers vs. Illinois Fighting Illini Betting Odds for Sunday, Mar. 17

The Wisconsin Badgers enter this Big Ten Tournament championship game against the Illinois Fighting Illini as three-point underdogs. Wisconsin has been slightly below average against the spread, holding an ATS record of 16-17-1. Conversely, Illinois has been one of the best teams against the spread in the Big Ten, boasting an ATS record of 17-13-3.

The Moneyline odds for the Wisconsin Badgers are +130, meaning if they win outright, then a $100 bet will win a bettor $130. The Fighting Illini are -155 favorites, which implies a $155 bet would win a bettor $100. 

The point total for this matchup between two of the best offenses in the Big Ten rests at 149 points; the Over and Under have -110 odds in this bout. The Badgers (22-12) and Fighting Illini (23-10) have exceptional Over records this season, often crushing point total lines due to their efficient offenses and forgiving defenses.

TeamsSpreadMoneylineTotal
Wisconsin Badgers+3 (-112)+130149 (-110)
Illinois Fighting Illini-3 (-108)-155149 (-110)

Odds from FanDuel Sportsbook. Use our FanDuel Link: Bet $5, get $200 in bonus bets.

Big 10 Championship Preview

It looked like the Illinois Fighting Illini would be down and out early in the second half, trailing by 15 points and seemingly having no momentum on the offensive end of the floor. However, Terrence Shannon Jr. had other plans, posting 40 points on the Cornhuskers to lead Illinois past Nebraska. 

Shannon wasn’t the only player who contributed to the 58-point second-half explosion; Marcus Domask, Luke Goode, and Quincy Guerrier also scored in double digits, while Coleman Hawkins and Ty Rodgers combined for 17 points!

The Cornhuskers scored enough points to win, scoring 87 on an often exploitable Fighting Illini defense; however, allowing opponents to score 58 points in a single half of basketball is not a conducive recipe for winning.

Illinois has had an extremely successful season, surviving the turbulence that came with Terrence Shannon Jr.’s suspension and building momentum back up after his return. Shannon was formally charged with a serious crime and will have a preliminary hearing after the college basketball season.

Through the season’s ups and downs, the Fighting Illini have remained consistent offensively and on the glass. According to TeamRankings, they rank sixth in total rebounding rate, 18th in offensive rebounding percentage, and fourth in adjusted offensive efficiency (KenPom.)

Defense has been a major concern throughout the 2023-24 campaign, though, and it absolutely needs to improve not only in this game but also in the NCAA Tournament games. In fact, the Fighting Illini rank 74th in adjusted defensive efficiency and allow opponents to hit just shy of 35% of their three-point attempts (229th in the nation). 

Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Badgers have had a tale of two seasons. At the beginning of February, they climbed to as high as No. 6 in the A.P. Poll before dropping eight of their next 11 games, falling out of the poll entirely, and surrendering their lead in the Big Ten regular season standings.

However, the Badgers have seemingly been revived in the Big Ten Tournament, winning their first three games against Maryland, Northwestern, and Purdue. Their most recent outing against the Boilermakers was extremely impressive, given the fact that they dealt with foul trouble the entire game. 

The primary reason Wisconsin overcame the huge foul and free throw differentials was its ball protection; the Badgers committed only five turnovers and forced Purdue to turn the ball over 16 times!

With Chucky Hepburn back from a minor injury, A.J. Storr scoring at an elite level, and Max Klesmit and Steven Crowl playing well offensively, this Badgers team more closely resembles the team we saw in December and January than the one we saw in February.

Can Wisconsin cap off a humongous four-game stretch to bring home a Big Ten Tournament title, or will the Fighting Illini put on an offensive clinic en route to a championship?

Bet $5 at FanDuel Sportsbook for $200 in Bonus Bets.

Wisconsin Badgers vs. Illinois Fighting Illini Prediction and Betting Pick

In the sole matchup between these two teams only two weeks ago, the Illinois Fighting Illini secured an eight-point road victory, dropping 91 points on the Wisconsin Badgers. It was a high-scoring affair and a complete slugfest, with 42 total fouls and 53 combined free throws. Both teams also shot 50% or better from the field, too.

However, this matchup should look a bit different. Wisconsin has all of the momentum right now after knocking off the Purdue Boilermakers, despite shooting 23 fewer free throws than Purdue and losing the rebounding battle by 16 boards. The Badgers’ physicality and ball protection proved to be the difference between winning and losing.

Most of Illinois’ offensive attack relies on knocking down high-percentage two-pointers (39th in two-point percentage) and securing a boatload of offensive rebounds (18th in offensive rebounding rate.) However, the Badgers have the necessary tools to mitigate the Fighting Illini’s strengths. 

Wisconsin ranks 20th in defensive rebounding percentage this season and second in adjusted defensive shot quality in the nation, per ShotQuality. The Badgers look much improved on the defensive end of the floor, where they struggled at times this season, particularly in February.

The Badgers also should be able to keep up with Illinois offensively, as they have hit roughly 42% of their three-pointers in the Big Ten Tournament. Wisconsin getting Chucky Hepburn back in the lineup proved huge, as he posted 22 points and four assists and helped the team limit turnovers. 

How to Watch Wisconsin Badgers vs. Illinois Fighting Illini

  • When: Sunday, Mar. 17 @ 12:30/3:30 p.m. PT/ET

  • Where: Target Center, Minneapolis, MN

  • TV: CBS

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AUTHOR

Andrew Norton

148 Articles

Andrew has always been an avid sports fan and followed his hoop dreams all the way to college. He’s well-versed in everything betting with multiple years of experience and is qualitatively and quantitatively knowledgeable in sports statistics and analytics.

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