Illinois Basketball: 5 sure-fire bets on the Illini vs Arkansas NCAA tournament game

Mar 13, 2023; Dayton, OH, USA; General view of the March Madness logo at UD Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 13, 2023; Dayton, OH, USA; General view of the March Madness logo at UD Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

Illinois basketball has a tough task at hand trying to take down a solid SEC program in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

The Illini finished the regular season and Big Ten Tournament in a bad way, but none of that matters now. A new season is upon us.

After looking through the gambling lines, I think there are five bets that you should throw your money on in this game.

Here are five sure-fire bets on the Illinois basketball vs Arkansas NCAA tournament game

Under 144 points (-105)

This season, Illinois has played 26 games against power-five DI opponents. 15 out of the 26 teams have ranked inside the top 150 in three-point shooting percentage. The other 11 are outside of that mark.

Illinois’ big issue is three-point defense. In the 15 games against teams who are ranked inside the top 150 in three-point shooting, the Illini are 7-8. We are 7-4 against teams that ranked outside the top 150.

Arkansas is shooting 31.7% from three-point range this season, which ranks No. 304 in the country. When Illinois plays teams that are sub-150 in the country in three-point shooting, the average score total when we win is 137 points and when we lose it is 144 points. Illinois has only played one other team this season that ranked sub-300, and that was Rutgers. We won that game 69-60.

On top of Arkansas not shooting well from three-point range, Illinois has dealt with struggles from deep too. We are hitting our three-pointers at a clip of 30.9%, which ranks worse than the Razorbacks at No. 331 in the nation.

Look for this game to be a brick fest, and for the under 144 points to be hit.

Arkansas -1.5 1st half (-115)

Coming into the Big Ten Tournament, I noted that Illinois was a bad first half basketball team. This remains true to the day.

For the season, Illinois is +39 after every Big Ten game has been played. That means we have outscored our opponents by a total of 39 points. But the Illini are -61 in the first half alone. We are +100 in the second half of games. That is a 161-point swing.

Illinois has also lost the first half in four out of the last five contests. The only first half win was against Michigan by two points.

Arkansas is a very strong first half team as well. They have had the lead going into halftime in six out of their last eight games. One of these leads came against the No. 1 overall seed in Alabama.

Illinois tends to start slowly, and the Razorbacks are quick out of the gates. That spells -1.5 in favor of Arkansas in the first half.

Race to 10 Points – Arkansas (-135)

As mentioned above, Illinois is slow to wake up and Arkansas comes out of the gates firing. This enables us to lay some money down on the race to 10 points.

I already went over how bad Illinois has been in the first half of games, but this slog to halftime isn’t a slow one. We quickly dig ourselves into a hole. Opponents have beaten Illinois to 10 points in eight out of the past 10 contests.

On the other side of the court, Arkansas likes to jump on opponents quickly. The Razorbacks have beaten their opponents to 10 points in five out of the past eight games.

With the slow starts by the Illini and the quick scoring by Arkansas, I love the race to 10 points to go to the Razorbacks.

To Win By 5 or Less – Either Team (+150)

I believe the Illinois vs. Arkansas game will end up being a nail-biter down the stretch. My guess is that Arkansas comes out of the gates strong but then the Illini make a nice comeback in the second half to close the margin.

Arkansas has played some close games this season. In SEC play alone, they have had six games with a margin of five points or less.

The Illini are in a similar boat. We have played seven Big Ten games this season that finished with a margin of five points or less.

I also don’t think this will be a high-scoring affair. Both teams are bad at shooting three-pointers, so it should be a low-scoring bloodbath. Look for the game to finish somewhere around 64-62 in favor of Illinois. That is why I think you should bet that either team wins by five points or less.

Arkansas Halftime/Illinois Fulltime (+450)

I am piggybacking off what I have mentioned earlier about the teams and their struggles in different halves of basketball.

If you are a bettor, I think you have to jump on the numbers. Illinois is a terrible first half team, and that will probably ring true against Arkansas. I see the Razorbacks being ahead by halftime.

But Illinois has made some incredible comebacks this season. We flip a switch in the second half, and just like that, the Illini are a competitive program.

In the final game of the season, Illinois was down by 21 points at halftime against Purdue. We made that game competitive and outscored the Boilermakers in the second half by 16 points. That could have easily been a win too.

A couple of games before that, Illinois was down by 18 points against Northwestern at halftime. We stormed back and won that game by four points.

Illinois is a better team in the second half of games by leaps and bounds. If we can be down by less than 10 points going into halftime, I think the Illini can come away with the win. Look for Arkansas to win the first half but for Illinois to come back and take the game. You get +450 on this bet.

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