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College basketball expert Mike Spector offers his best bet for the Big Ten matchup between Wisconsin and Illinois on Wednesday night.

Illinois vs. Wisconsin Prediction: Can the Illini Earn a Big Leg Up in the Big Ten Championship Race?

There is plenty of basketball left to be played, but tonight’s game between Wisconsin and Illinois feels crucial in terms of crowning the Big Ten regular season champion. The Badgers and Fighting Illini are two of three teams tied at the top of the conference standings with an 8-2 record in league play. And considering this is the only meeting between these teams, the head-to-head tiebreaker could determine the champion.

So which team will give their conference championship aspirations a big boost with a win tonight? Here are our picks and predictions for the Big Ten matchup between Wisconsin and Illinois.

Illinois vs. Wisconsin Start Time, Where to Watch, and Odds

Date: Wednesday, February 2

Game Time: 9:30 pm ET

Where to Watch: BTN

Click Here for Illinois vs. Wisconsin Odds

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Illinois vs. Wisconsin Line Movement

Illinois vs. Wisconsin Prediction

Wisconsin (17-3, 8-2) has been a model of consistency all year long. They enter this game having won nine of their last ten, which has included impressive victories at Purdue and at home against Ohio State. Their victory at Mackey Arena, for now, quiets some doubters that will point to four of their eight league wins coming against the bottom four teams in the league, while they have beaten just one team in the top four of the standings.

While Wisconsin prides itself on its consistency all season, Illinois’ path to a 15-5 overall record and 8-2 record in league play has been much more uneven. The Fighting Illini have endured two different mini two-game losing streaks, most recently against Purdue and Maryland two weeks ago. But Illinois’ roller-coaster season has been primarily due to a rotation that seems to be constantly changing. Sophomore point guard Andre Curbelo has played in just six games this season, and dominant big man Kofi Cockburn has missed five total games, two of which ended in losses.

Cockburn returned from a two-game concussion-related absence to score 22 points and post nine rebounds in their last game against Northwestern. In three career games against the Badgers, Cockburn has averaged 19 points and nine rebounds and should again post similar numbers, provided he stays out of foul trouble. He has committed at least four fouls in two of the last four games, and his presence is vital against a Wisconsin team with decent size.

As of this writing, Andre Curbelo’s status is still unknown as he remains in the concussion protocol. However, if he is cleared, his presence will have a considerable impact, as evidenced by his 20-point performance in his first game back after an 11-game absence. Curbelo would likely be tasked with slowing down Wisconsin’s Brad Davison, who has averaged better than 17 points and shot better than 47% from 3-point range over the last eight games.

Illinois is most vulnerable on transition defense, but the Badgers are not built as an up-tempo team, playing at the 328th slowest pace in the country. 

Illinois has won three straight head-to-head meetings against Wisconsin by an average of seven points. That winning streak followed a stretch where Wisconsin won 15 consecutive games against Illinois from 2011-19. So it is perhaps not coincidental that Illinois’ winning in this rivalry started once Kofi Cockburn joined the Illini. He is too explosive for Steven Crowl and Chris Vogt to handle in the post, so look for Brad Underwood to go to Cockburn early and often.

The Fighting Illini are 5-2 ATS in their last seven games as home favorites, and the favorite is 18-7-1 over the previous 26 meetings between these teams. Illinois is 9-2 at home, with their only home losses coming against Arizona and Purdue (in double overtime), and we look for them to ride a raucous “Orange Crush” crowd to a statement victory tonight.

Illinois vs. Wisconsin Pick

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Article Author


Mike Spector brings unmatched knowledge and insight into the game of football, and more importantly the process of betting on NFL football. Mike is the #2 ranked expert in FantasyPros' NFL betting contest


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