Illinois came into this season with high expectations, but was one of the more inconsistent teams in the nation. They’re a long team, with no starter shorter than 6-foot-6, and are led by transfers Terrence Shannon Jr. and Matthew Mayer, who bring in plenty of tournament experience.
Arkansas came out absolutely on fire, starting off the season 11-1, but slowed down in the second half of the season. They ended their season a bit earlier than expected, with a disappointing 67-61 loss to Texas A&M in the SEC tournament.
Read on for my Arkansas vs Illinois prediction and best bets.
Arkansas vs Illinois Odds
Note: CBB odds mentioned in this article for Arkansas vs Illinois were used from DraftKings Sportsbook, unless otherwise noted, and the main game lines for this March Madness contest are current as of 3 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 14:
- Moneyline: Arkansas (-130) | Illinois (+110)
- Spread: Arkansas -1.5 (-110) | Illinois +1.5 (-110)
- Over/Under: Over 143.5 (-110) | Under 143.5 (-110)
Arkansas vs Illinois Best Bet
Keep reading for more Arkansas vs Illinois betting tips.
Arkansas vs Illinois Prediction
Illinois 71, Arkansas 68
These two teams are fairly evenly matched, and in situations like that, I tend to give the slight edge to the underdog. Both teams are coming in with unimpressive ends to the season and will need to turn things around quickly if they want to stick around in this tournament.
Arkansas has a pretty lethal guards trio of Anthony Black, Nick Smith Jr., and Ricky Council IV, who they will rely fairly heavily on for their production. Additionally, they have mixed up their forward rotations recently, and it seems like they are favoring that small-ball lineup at the moment.
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Arkansas vs Illinois Best Bets
First Half Total Under 66.5 (-110) | DraftKings Sportsbook
WAGER: 1 Unit
Both of these teams are stronger on the defensive side of the ball, with Arkansas ranking 19th in defensive efficiency, while Illinois sits at 32nd. We have seen some impressive flashes on offense from both sides, but neither has been able to consistently put the pieces together.
Considering that neither of these teams is coming in with any momentum at all, I do think we get a slow start here. Arkansas has had some more success with some of the small-ball lineups they’ve run out recently, but Illinois’ length should give them some trouble.
Additionally, Arkansas relies on getting to the paint, considering they are 347th in the nation in 3-pointers made.
We could see the free throws add up as we get deeper into the game, considering Illinois does have a bit of a foul problem, but I expect that to punish them more in crunch time than the first half.
Illinois +2 (-110) | Caesars Sportsbook
WAGER: 1 Unit
It’s an interesting juxtaposition between the young potential lottery talent of Arkansas and the more experienced veteran core that Illinois has put together. In games it has played as at least a 2.5-point underdog this season, Illinois is 5-0 against the spread this season.
One of the biggest advantages Illinois will have here is on the boards. Illinois ranks 23rd in the nation in rebounds and 43rd in offensive rebounds, while Arkansas ranks 139th and 165th in those categories.
Kofi Cockburn may no longer be in town, but that aggressive rebounding mentality has clearly stuck.
Arkansas vs Illinois Same Game Parlay
Arkansas vs Illinois Parlay (+125) | DraftKings Sportsbook
WAGER: 0.25 Units
- Illinois +5.5 (-225)
- Illinois Team Total Under 77.5 (-340)
I’m expecting a very close game here, but with that Arkansas defense, I have a hard time seeing Illinois going Over that total. It will come down to the final few possessions, and I’m expecting Illinois to prevail in this battle.