Illinois March Madness Odds: First Round NCAA Tournament vs. Arkansas

Written By Derek Wagner on March 14, 2023
illinois march madness odds

The Arkansas Razorback (20-13) face the Illinois Fighting Illini (20-12) at 4:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, March 16 on TBS. The Razorbacks are spread favorites and on the moneyline. The point total is set at . In this article, we break down everything you need to know before placing a bet on Illinois March Madness odds, including team matchups, key metrics, and the best available odds.

Click on the odds anywhere in this post to bet now and lock in the best sports betting bonus codes, if you are a new user at that sportsbook.


Betting the point spread is when you wager on how many points a team will win or lose by. A plus sign in front of the spread denotes the underdog, and a minus sign denotes the favorite. Betting the moneyline is simply betting on which particular team will win the game.

The total is the number of combined points the two teams will score. Bettors can choose to bet the over or under on how many total points will be scored in the game. To place a bet on Illinois March Madness odds, click on the odds in the table.


Arkansas vs. Illinois player props

Betting on college basketball player props is only available in CT, DC, IA, IL, IN LA, MD, NJ, OH, WA, WV, and WY; however, CT IA, IL, and NJ do not allow you to bet player props for players on in-state teams.

Illinois March Madness Futures

Why Arkansas Can Cover The Spread

At this point, Arkansas is acutely aware of the fact that teams want them shooting from the perimeter. They’ve faced plenty of zone defense in the gauntlet that is the SEC Conference. In many of those instances, Eric Musselman‘s squad has fallen for the trap and elected to settle for the perimeter looks. As the season wore on, however, we’ve seen them button up their shot selection on occasion.

Furthermore, Arkansas’ length will be pivotal in determining who will advance. Their height throughout their starting lineup helped them wreak havoc on the defensive end of the floor this year, netting them the SEC’s highest block percentage at 13.1%. The Mitchell twins, in particular, are elite rim protectors. Their length also allows them to clog up passing lanes and create turnovers that other teams cannot generate.

In addition to his ability to contest shots, Makhi sports a top-150 defensive rebounding rate nationally. His success in this department should limit the Illini’s second-chance opportunities. When Illinois isn’t scoring in transition, they clean up the offensive boards with the best of them, averaging 10.2 per game and boasting a top-50 rate in the country.

Musselman possesses one of the best defenses in the nation, ranking 16th in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom. The Hogs’ success on this end of the court is derived from their relentless ball pressure. Anthony Black and Devo Davis are the keys to forcing turnovers against a sputtering Illinois offense.

Illinois averaged 12.8 turnovers per game on the season, slightly more than the average across D-1. The main culprits are Terrence ShannonDain Dainja, and Coleman Hawkins. Shannon struggled mightily against Purdue when forced into primary ball-handling duties in the first half. Dainja struggled all season when doubled in the low post, allowing guards to come in and pick his pocket. Hawkins’ erratic passing in attempts to make a highlight worthy play is unnecessary, and borderline infuriating at times. If the previously mentioned issues weren’t case enough, freshman guard Jayden Epps has scuffled against elite ball pressure. In games against Rutgers and Wisconsin, Epps compiled eight turnovers. Crank up the pressure on Illinois, and someone is bound to crumble.

Illinois’ offense has also been one of the most inefficient in the nation. They take over 24.8 threes per game, a top-40 clip while shooting only 30.9% on them. Arkansas should sit back and let the Illini chuck it up from the perimeter.

Why Illinois Can Cover The Spread

The strength of this Illinois team lies in their ability to defend inside the arc, where the Razorbacks get the majority of their points, 59% (No. 15 in D-1). Their tremendous length proves problematic for their opponents, as they sport the nation’s seventh-highest block percentage. If Musselman’s offense funnels inside, look for the trio of Dainja, Hawkins, and Matthew Mayer to stonewall them.

Underwood’s squad had a recent matchup against Minnesota that serves as an appetizer for how he’ll likely defend Arkansas. Comparing the lowly Gophers to a team loaded with lottery picks is a stretch, but bear with me. Much like the Razorbacks, the Gophers thrive inside the arc, scoring 54.2% (No. 77 in the nation) of their points there. Illinois elected to play a soft-man defense, clogging the paint and forcing the Gophers into contested 2s. Keeping this in mind, it will undoubtedly be part of his strategy against Musselman’s squad. Similar to the Gophers, the Razorbacks are putrid from the perimeter. As a team, they shot 31.7% from deep, a bottom-60 percentage in the country.

The Razorback’s love to leak out and score easy buckets in transition off steals, According to Haslamtrics, they rank 41st nationally in quick points off breakaway steals. Illinois’ defense is elite in their transition defense, however. They’re led by Shannon’s speed and determination to chase-down opponents.

On the offensive end, Underwood may lean heavily on five-out offense, led by Hawkins. The five-out would pull Arkansas’ rim protectors out of the paint, opening up driving opportunities for Illinois’ guards.

Situationally speaking, Illinois could be highly motivated for this matchup. Freshman guard Skyy Clark, who left the program on Jan. 6, told On3sports Monday that Arkansas has reached out to him. Since freshman guard Nick Smith is likely headed to the NBA next season, Musselman is already scouring the transfer portal looking for his replacement. As a result, he may have unintentionally created a motivational edge for the Illini in this first-round matchup.

If you’re into trends, the Illini are 5-1 ATS as an underdog this season, with outright wins over UCLA and Texas, respectively.


Although they are ripe with individual talent, Illinois has struggled to play together and find an identity. Some of this can be attributed to injuries throughout the season, but its largely due to their inefficient shot selection. On the flip side, I can see Smith being an issue for the Illinois defense.

In conclusion, I won’t have a bet on this game before tip-off. I’ll look for a live spot to come in as we let these defensive juggernauts duke it out. Join free sports betting Discord channel to get alerted when our staff locks in a bet. Download the Discord app, and then go to the #roles server and opt into push notifications. Good luck betting on Illinois March Madness odds.

Best Available Line: Illinois
Derek’s Bet: Illinois +6 or better (aiming for a live, in-game bet).

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