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Illinois vs. Loyola-Chicago Pick: NCAA Tournament Prediction and Analysis

Sports Betting

No. 1 seed Illinois cruised by Drexel in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament and will now meet No. 8 seed Loyola-Chicago, victors over Georgia Tech, in the Midwest Region’s second round on Sunday afternoon at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Let’s take a closer look at this matchup with our Illinois vs. Loyola-Chicago betting pick that includes odds, analysis and an ATS prediction.

Illinois vs. Loyola-Chicago Betting Pick

The campuses of the Illini and the Ramblers are just 135 miles apart in Illinois, but this Sunday they will meet smack in the middle of neighboring Indiana, with Illinois laying seven points at most sportsbooks.

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Seeing perhaps the hottest team in the country as favorites in this Round of 32 matchup is hardly a surprise, but let’s see if the Illini deserve to be laying this large of a number to their ranked, in-state opponents.

Illinois vs. Loyola-Chicago Odds

Here are the latest Illinois vs. Loyola-Chicago odds listed at DraftKings Sportsbook:

Team Spread Moneyline Total
Loyola-Chicago +7 (-110) +255 O 133.5 (-110)
Illinois -7 (-110) -315 U 133.5 (-110)

It would be hard to argue that the nation’s No. 3 ranked team overall, which has rattled off wins in 15 of its last 16 games, should be favored by any less than seven points in this spot. After all, this run has featured a number of victories by double digits.

Yet, Loyola-Chicago has been an underdog just once all season before now and have an impressive streak of their own going. It has won seven straight games and 18 of its last 19 overall, making these odds seem relatively fair at the end of the day.

The total may seem a bit low, given that Illinois boasts a Top 20 scoring offense and has not had a total set this low all season.

Yet, Loyola’s No. 5 ranked scoring defense can be absolutely suffocating. With two Top 10 field goal percentage offenses doing battle here, it stands to reason both will value their possessions and use as much of the shot clock as necessary to ensure good looks each trip.

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Why Illinois Can Cover the Spread

It’s hard to find many flaws in this Illini group which is No. 2 in the KenPom Ratings and carries the toughest strength of schedule.

This team features an All-Big Ten big man in Kofi Cockburn, an All-American and future lottery pick in Ayo Dosunmu, and the nation’s best deep threat in Da’Monte Williams (54.5%), to go with a number of other quality complementary pieces.

The Illini are the best team in the country in terms of rebounding percentage and are a Top 20 three-point shooting percentage group.

Moreover, they have covered four of their last five NCAA Tournament games and 13 of their last 19 in the Big Dance as favorites. They won and covered both of their games this season on one day of rest, while also covering roughly 12  of their 18 games away from home.

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Why Loyola-Chicago can Cover the Spread

Unless you follow the Missouri Valley Conference closely, Friday’s win over Georgia Tech may have been your first glimpse of this Ramblers team, but what you saw was a shining example of who they are and what they can do to an opponent’s offense.

Georgia Tech collected just one offensive rebound and made only three shots from beyond the arc. The Yellow Jackets also made just three foul shots all night.

That may seem uncanny, but for a team in the top 30 in rebounding percentage in their own right, with the nation’s best scoring defense (55.7 ppg allowed) to boot, this is just par for the course.

Keep in mind, this Ramblers team is just three years removed from their Final Four run behind now 101-year old Sister Jean’s positive prayers. In fact, their lockdown defender, Lucas Williamson was a freshman on that team, and has the capability to minimize Dosunmu’s impact on the offensive end. This should help keep the Ramblers close, which is all a Loyola bettor really needs here.

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Illinois vs. Loyola-Chicago Prediction

While betting against the Illini in their current form may seem like a death sentence, this may be the spot to take a generous helping of points with one of the most technically sound teams in the country.

The Ramblers will be doing all of the things you love to see in a team, while avoiding so many of those which make you want to throw your remote.

Don’t expect them to turn the ball over a ton (11.8 per game), give up a ton of offensive rebounds (No. 5 rebounding percentage in the nation), or commit a bunch of fouls (11th least per game in the country).

They will shrink the pace of this game and the margin of error for Illinois to cover this number. For an impressive 19-10-1 ATS Illini team, they were just 6-7-1 ATS when laying five or more points this season.

The most interesting trend we found, even better than Illinois’ being 1-2 SU and 0-3 ATS in Sunday games this season (and on an 0-6 ATS Sunday run currently), ties in with the Fighting Illini’s 29-point win over Drexel in the Round of 64.

Since Nov. 26th, Illinois is 1-3 SU and 0-4 ATS after wins of 25+ points. It was favored in all four of those games, three of which saw them favored by 6.5+, like in this one.

In other words, half of this dynamic team’s losses this season came directly after a blowout win against teams they were expected to beat rather comfortably. Look for a Ramblers team that has more NCAA Tournament experience on the court than their opponents to keep this close and maybe even pull off a shocking upset. After all, getting this many points with a team that has covered 7 of its last 8 games against teams with better than a .600 win percentage and four of their last five as dogs in the NCAA Tournament has to be viewed as a gift, no matter who the opposition.

ATS Pick: Loyola-Chicago +7

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Author: BN Staff

From the collective mind of the Bleacher Nation staff.