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Illinois Fighting Illini at Rutgers Scarlet Knights Betting Preview

The crazy Big Ten season continues on Wednesday night with the no. 12 Illinois Fighting Illini paying a visit to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Both teams have come a long way since Illinois crushed Rutgers 86-51 in early December. This time around, the Illini are four-point road favorites, with the over/under set at 134 points.

Rutgers is arguably the hottest team in the country right now. The Scarlet Knights have become giant killers, winning three in a row, all against ranked teams. Rutgers has taken down Michigan State and Ohio State at home and beat Wisconsin on the road over the weekend, thrusting the Scarlet Knights into the NCAA Tournament conversation.

Of course, the Fighting Illini currently sit atop the Big Ten standings. Despite a loss to Purdue last week, Illinois has won five of its last six games. That has the Illini half a game ahead of both Purdue and Wisconsin in a tight, three-team race for the Big Ten title.

Big and Little

It’s no secret that Illinois is led by big man Kofi Cockburn, who is averaging 21.5 points and 11.4 rebounds per game. He makes over 60% of his field goals and has two double-doubles in his last four games. Of course, Illinois doesn’t have much size in the frontcourt outside of Cockburn, although Coleman Hawkins can give them solid minutes.

Meanwhile, the Illinois backcourt is loaded, especially with Andre Curbelo can get going. The likes of Alfonso Plummer, Trent Frazier, and Jacob Grandison are all excellent shooters who average double figures. If the Illini can also get strong play at the point guard position from Curbelo and Da’Monte Williams, they become a difficult team to guard.

Knights in Shining Armor

While Rutgers isn’t the most explosive offensive team, the Scarlet Knights also have a good balance. It starts with forward Ron Harper Jr., who is a bonafide star, averaging 15.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game and can score at all three levels. Meanwhile, center Clifford Omoruyi is one of the more underrated big men in the Big Ten, averaging 11.4 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.

The Scarlet Knights also have a stable backcourt, starting with Geo Baker, who’s averaging 17.7 points per game during the team’s current winning streak. Point guard Paul Mulcahy has also been on fire lately, averaging 19 points and 7.5 assists over his last four games. However, the team’s depth starts to dip after that, although the Scarlet Knights still have four players who are performing at a high level right now.

All About the Numbers

Even though Rutgers has had some big-time wins lately and is difficult to face at home, it’s going to take a Herculean effort from the Scarlet Knights to turn the tables on a team that beat them by 34 points earlier this season. Illinois has far more backcourt depth than Rutgers, and even if the Scarlet Knights have size, that doesn’t mean they can contain Cockburn. Look for this game to be close, but the Illini’s shooting will help them pull away and cover the spread.

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