If you are a fan of college hoops, Friday night offers some excellent matchups within its slate of games. One intriguing matchup pits Big Ten rivals against each other as the No. 7 Iowa Hawkeyes (12-3) take on the No. 19 Illinois Fighting Illini (10-5). Illinois will host this one from the State Farm Center, with tipoff scheduled for 9:00 pm ET.
After winning five in a row, the Hawkeyes were upset by Indiana at home last Thursday, 81-69. Currently sitting 1.5 games back of the Michigan Wolverines in the Big Ten standings, Iowa will look to regroup and take down a tough Illini team.
Speaking of Illinois, with a win over Iowa, they would actually leapfrog them in the standings. They will benefit from playing at home, where they are 7-2 at the State Farm Center. Still, Illinois has shown some inconsistency this season, exemplified by the fact they have lost two of their last three.
Illinois is the slight favorite in this one. They are currently -132 to win while the Hawkeyes’ moneyline sits at +112. The spread features Iowa +1.5 while the over/under for total points is 162.5.
By The Numbers
Offensively, these are two of the best teams in the nation. Iowa is the second-highest scoring team averaging 90.7 points per game. Illinois comes in 10th in the nation averaging 82.9.
Defensively, it is the Illini with the edge. They rank 126th in scoring defense, allowing 68.9 points per game. The Hawkeyes fall to 251st, allowing an average of 72.7 points per game.
Iowa Looks To Get Back On Track
The loss to Indiana last week certainly came as a shock to Iowa fans, but the Hawkeyes are hoping to prove it was just a blip on the radar as opposed to the start of a slump. They will have the opportunity to prove their dominance against a talented Illinois team Friday.
Leading the way for the Hawkeyes is big man Luka Garza. In the world of college basketball, Garza is one of the best. On the season, he is averaging 26.9 points on 61% shooting. He is also adding 8.9 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1.8 blocks per game.
When opposing defenses try to contain Garza is when Joe Wieskamp (14.5 points, 6.7 rebounds), Jordan Bohannon (9.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.7 assists), and CJ Fredrick (9.1 points) can hurt you.
Despite being built around such a dominant big man, Iowa ranks 16th in college basketball in threes per game at 10.1.
Illinois Hoping For Signature Win At Home
At 10-5, the Illini have had a really nice start to the season, but they would still love to get a signature win against a top-10 team like Iowa.
The Illini are led by junior guard Ayo Dosunmu and sophomore center Kofi Cockburn. This season, Dosunmu is averaging 21.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 4.9 assists.
In the middle, Cockburn has been a force averaging a double-double with 17.4 points on 70.1% shooting and 10.3 rebounds. He is also averaging 1.5 blocks.
Illinois has plenty of secondary options that can catch fire, too. Adam Miller (9.6 points), Trent Frazier (8.7 points), Andre Curbelo (8.6 points, 3.1 rebounds, 4.4 assists), and Da’Monte Williams (6 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 2 assists) have all been major contributors for head coach Brad Underwood’s squad.
Taking Iowa And The Points
This one might come down to the interior game. A fascinating matchup will be between big men Luka Garza and Kofi Cockburn. If the Illini allow Garza to play to his averages, I think Iowa wins. If Cockburn and company can control the interior, I like Illinois’ chances.
With this game truly being capable of going either way, I feel compelled to take the points. For that reason, give me Iowa at +1.5 in this one.