The Illinois Fighting Illini are building momentum and will try to take to pick up a win against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights when they host a Big Ten opener Friday night. The Illini (5-2) have won three straight games, most recently an 82-72 win against Notre Dame on Monday, and center Kofi Cockburn is one of the nation's best players. The 7-foot Jamaican has dominated since returning from a three-game suspension to start the season. The Illini ranked No. 10 before taking on Marquette on Nov. 15, but they lost that game and a subsequent meeting with Cincinnati. Now Illinois is trying to get back into the top 25, while Rutgers (4-3) is looking to solve its shooting woes. The Scarlet Knights beat Clemson 74-64 on Tuesday to snap a three-game skid.
Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. ET in Champaign, Ill. Caesars Sportsbook lists the Fighting Illini as the eight-point favorites in its latest Rutgers vs. Illinois college basketball odds, while the over-under is set at 134. Before making any Illinois vs. Rutgers picks, check out the college basketball predictions and betting advice from the SportsLine Projection Model.
The SportsLine Projection Model simulates every Division I college basketball game 10,000 times. Over the past five-plus years, the proprietary computer model has generated an impressive profit of almost $2,100 for $100 players on its top-rated college basketball picks against the spread. Anyone who has followed it has seen huge returns.
- Illinois vs. Rutgers spread: Illini -8
- Illinois vs. Rutgers over-under: 134
- Rutgers: It is 16-17-2 ATS overall since the start of the last season.
- Illinois: It is 22-16 ATS in all games since the start of last season.
Why Illinois can cover
Cockburn ultimately returned after declaring for the draft and entering the transfer portal, and he is the key to the team. The 2020-21 All-American would lead the nation in scoring if he had enough games to qualify, as he is averaging 26.8 in his four starts. He is a rare combination of size and strength and pulls down 9.5 rebounds. Rutgers doesn't have a physical big man who can match up. The Scarlet Knights also have been missing a ton of shots. They rank 297th in the nation in field-goal percentage (40.7) and 351st in 3-point shooting (26 percent).
Illinois was 16-7 against the spread in conference games last season, and it has performed well on defense. Opponents are shooting 40.3 percent (105th in Division I) and 30.8 from beyond the arc (118th). Guard Trent Frazier was a Big Ten All-DefensIve selection last season, and he and forward Coleman Hawkins are combining for 2.5 steals. Guards Alfonso Plummer (13.9) and Jacob Grandison (10.5) are the top scorers behind Coburn. Plummer is the main 3-point threat, hitting at 42.9 percent of his attempts (21 of 49). Hawkins scores 9.7 points and gets 6.3 of the Illini's 41.9 rebounds per game. The Illini were 11-6 ATS as the home team last season.
Why Rutgers can cover
Rutgers was 5-5 ATS on the road last season. It built some confidence in the win against Clemson, when Ron Harper scored 23 points and Caleb McConnell added 16. Harper, McConnell and center Cliff Omoruyi combined for 25 of the Scarlet Knights' 40 rebounds. Harper is the team's leader, and the 6-foot-6 senior contributes across the board. He averages team-highs of 16.1 points and nine rebounds while adding 2.7 assists and three steals.
The sophomore Omoruyi was New Jersey's top recruit two years ago and averages 12 points and just under eight rebounds. Rutgers has struggled without guard Geo Baker (11.2 points, four assists), who has been hampered by a hamstring injury. He and Harper both returned after testing the NBA draft process. McConnell and Paul Mulcahy have been seeing a lot of minutes, and they combine for more than 12 points and nearly 10 rebounds, and Mulcahy adds a team-high 4.1 assists. The Scarlet Knights are 26-16 ATS in Big Ten games since 2019.
How to make Rutgers vs. Illinois picks
SportsLine's model is leaning over on the total, projecting 137 combined points. It also says one side of the spread has all the value. You can get the pick only at SportsLine.
So who wins Illinois vs. Rutgers? And which side of the spread has all the value? Visit SportsLine now to see which side of the spread to jump on, all from the advanced model that has returned almost $2,100 on its college basketball picks the last five-plus years, and find out.