NCAAB: Minnesota vs. Illinois odds, preview, and pick

Profile Picture: Dan Halverson

December 14th, 2020

On Tuesday night, an excellent Big Ten matchup takes place as the Minnesota Golden Gophers kick off their conference season with a road trip against the Illinois Fighting Illini.

Minnesota comes in undefeated at 6-0, but Illinois is favored and ranked higher thanks to some better victories on its resume, including a recent road win against Duke.

Wed, December 16 2020, 12:00 AM

Illinois Fighting Illini






O 148

Minnesota Golden Gophers






U 148

Dosunmu has been unstoppable for Illinois

Illinois is 4-2 on the season and 3-3 against the spread. The Fighting Illini are coming off a loss to Missouri in which head coach Brad Underwood stated the team lacked energy and effort. Considering the Illini entered that game off a double-digit road victory against Duke, it’s fair to assume their last game was simply a letdown.

Preseason All-American guard Ayo Dosunmu is the leader of the Illini, and enters averaging 24.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game. Dosunmu is a consistently excellent performer, and is complimented by sophomore center Kofi Cockburn, who is averaging 14.0 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.

Minnesota has struggled against the spread

Minnesota enters 6-0, but its schedule thus far has been suspect, and the Golden Gophers are just 2-3-1 against the spread. Minnesota had a nice victory against Boston College, but even that win was a come-from-behind affair in which it surrendered 80 points. Nobody can complain about a goose egg in the loss column, but Tuesday night’s game certainly marks a step-up in competition.

The leader for Minnesota is junior guard, Marcus Carr, but the Golden Gophers have also relied on two transfers in a big way this year. Seven-foot center Liam Robinson from Drake tallied 27 points and nine rebounds in Minnesota's victory against Kansas City, and Utah transfer Both Gach is averaging 15.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per game to start the 2020 season.

Minnesota won't be able to match Illinois' energy

Minnesota looks the part of a well-rounded Big Ten team, with Carr being a dynamic spark plug, but in the Golden Gophers' first look against equally skilled competition they will likely struggle on defense.

Illinois is ranked 10th in adjusted offensive efficiency and after losing last time out, should emerge energized on both sides of the ball. Brad Underwood has a 67% lifetime winning percentage, and with an All-American in his corner will bounce back on Tuesday with a win to start the conference season.

Score prediction: Illinois 88, Minnesota, 80

NCAAB pick: Illinois