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Northwestern has had a rough start to conference play, as the Wildcats are 1-5 and last in the Big Ten. They hope to improve on this record on Saturday, but to do so, they have a tough challenge awaiting them in Champaign, Illinois.
The Fighting Illini has had an outstanding start to conference play, where they've gone 4-2 so far. And they've been dominant at home, winning 10 of their first 11 home games on the season.
Saturday's contest takes place at the State Farm Center with tip-off slated for 5 p.m. EST.
The Wildcats' offense faces an uphill battleNorthwestern's offense on the road is efficient, scoring 66 points per game and making 46% of their shots, indicating they do an excellent job in the half-court game of finding the best available shot.
This won't be as easy on Saturday, as they face an Illinois defense that's tougher than a two-dollar steak. The Fighting Illini hold opponents to 60 points per game on 39% shooting. This places them 30th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.
Because of this, patience is the Wildcats' best offensive tool. Since both teams enjoy running a slower pace, the half-court games win this one. And for the Wildcats to have a chance at pulling off the road win, Miller Kopp needs to have a big performance.
Luckily, for Northwestern fans, he's better on the road, where he averages 13.9 points per game on 46% shooting. He's also been dangerous from behind the arc, making 54% of his three-point shots. His versatility could help the Wildcats stay in this one.
Illinois's offense aims to overwhelmThe Fighting Illini has been impressive offensive on their home court. On the season, they average 81 points per game on 48% shooting. This places them 44th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency.
On Saturday, they face a Northwestern defense that's been good on the road. The Wildcats hold opponents to 69 points per game on 41% shooting, placing them 97th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency.
For Illinois's offense to retain its high-octane scoring attack, Ayo Dosunmu must have a strong performance. At home, he's been exceptional on the season, where he averages 15 points per game on 49% shooting.
If he can catch fire early by knocking down some shots, then the Fighting Illini could run away with this one.
Trends found on Odds Shark.com Illinois is:
- 5-0 SU in last 5 home games
- 1-6 SU in last 7 games
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
Illinois heads into this contest with more momentum. Meanwhile, Northwestern has lost six of its last seven games and faces a difficult uphill battle. Their offense doesn't score many points on the road (68) while their defense faces a tough challenge trying to stop an Illinois offense that shoots 48% on its homecourt and scores 82 points per game. What's more, the Fighting Illini's defense should prove to be the difference-maker in this one. They contain teams to 60 points per game and given they're facing a Wildcats' offense that isn't explosive nor high-scoring, I look for Illinois to hold Northwestern's offense in check. This leads to Illinois winning this one impressively.
Full-Game Total Pick
I like the Under in this one primarily because of Illinois' defense. They've been terrific at home, holding opponents to 60 points per game on 39% shooting. And they're facing a Northwestern offense that shoots the ball well but doesn't score many points. Due to Illinois' defensive success, I expect this to be a lower-scoring game. Moreover, the Under is 5-2 in the last seven meetings between these programs, so the smart bet is to take the Under in this one.