College Basketball Best Bets: Will Surprising Hawkeyes Prevail Over Illini?

Written By Eli Hershkovich on December 6, 2021 - Last Updated on December 7, 2021
College Basketball Best Bets

There’s only one marquee contest on Monday’s slate, and it resides in the Big Ten. After Iowa fell at Purdue in its conference opener despite covering (+15.5), it’ll take on Illinois at Carver Hawkeye Arena. Let’s break down my college basketball best bets for this new renewed rivalry after Brad Underwood’s team upended Iowa in the 2021 Big Ten Tournament semifinals.

Click on the odds below to place a bet now. You can continue the discussion in our betting community, as we break down all of the games throughout the week.

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Illinois Fightning Illini at Iowa Hawkeyes

Hawkeyes forward Keegan Murray (ankle) missed their game at the Boilermakers, and coach Fran McCaffrey noted Murray has a 50-50 chance of playing against the Illini. Per a source, Iowa’s leading scorer was expected to suit up on Friday, but Iowa held him out for precautionary reasons.

The Hawkeyes are 5-2 against the spread with a healthy Murray, which is a little unexpected after losing 2021 Wooden Award winner Luka Garza.

Whether or not Murray is in the lineup, Iowa should tally clean looks at the rim if it generates transition opportunities. Despite McCaffrey’s group sitting outside the top 150 in defensive rebounding rate, he’s shown more of a willingness to pressure the ball than in past seasons. That played out against Purdue, as the No. 1 team in my college basketball rankings nearly coughed up the lead because of their late-game miscues.

Underwood’s bunch only amassed 10 turnovers in Friday’s win over Rutgers, but the Scarlet Knights rarely set up their defense because of their inefficient half-court offense. Illinois presents a bottom-50 turnover rate across Division I, and it’ll be without lead guard Andre Curbelo (undisclosed) once again.

Nevertheless, the Hawkeyes don’t possess a big man who can challenge the 7-foot Kofi Cockburn in the low-post. If McCaffrey doubles Cockburn often, Illinois’ perimeter shooting should pose an issue with Alfonso Plummer (42.1% 3FG) and the rest of the Fighting Illini long-range gunners. Iowa is allowing a top-100 3-point attempt rate, so the looks will be there.

Regarding the total (), I’m anticipating an uptempo pace from both programs. While it’s been bet down after opening at O/U 153, I’d need the market to come in more on the under before I recommend a bet there.

Stay away from the pregame spread as well, but monitor how this contest plays out from an in-game betting perspective. A live bet on Iowa — around a pick’em or better — would be the side I’d consider if Murray starts.

Eli’s Bet: Pass on pregame line
College Basketball Best Bets: Iowa in-game/live at pick’em or better if Keegan Murray is in
Best Available Line: Iowa

Eli Hershkovich Avatar
Written by
Eli Hershkovich

Eli Hershkovich is a lead sports betting writer with TheLines and Catena Media, formerly with Audacy and The Action Network. His goal is to provide you with data and information to lead you to winning bets. Eli is an avid college basketball gambler — among many other sports — and still hasn't forgiven Virginia for ruining his 2018-2019 Texas Tech futures.

View all posts by Eli Hershkovich