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The Illinois Fighting Illini and the Arkansas Razorbacks face off in March Madness' Round of 64 this Thursday. Matt McCuen shares his prediction and best bet for the game.
ANALYSIS

Arkansas vs Illinois Prediction: Trust this Expert's Round of 64 Pick

The Illinois Fighting Illini and the Arkansas Razorbacks will duel things out for a much anticipated eight versus nine matchups as we get set to tip off March Madness. On paper, this could be one of the best opening-round games.

Arkansas vs Illinois Start Time and Where to Watch

  • Date: March 16, 2023
  • Start Time: 4:30 p.m. ET
  • Where to Watch: TBS

Click here for Arkansas vs Illinois odds

Arkansas vs Illinois Prediction

Arkansas came into the season, ranked in the top ten but ended the year outside the rankings. The Razorbacks recruited one of the best classes in basketball, headlined by stars Nick Smith Jr. and Anthony Black, both of which are slated to be lottery picks. Injuries slowed down this Arkansas team, but they closed the season pretty strong and should feel good about their recent play. It is important to note that the Razorbacks enter March madness about as healthy as they have been all season long.

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Illinois, meanwhile, enters this tournament not playing their best basketball. The Illini did not win a game in the Big Ten tournament after being beaten by Penn State. The Illini began the year ranked twenty-third in the nation but similar to Arkansas. They ended the year outside the top twenty-five. This is a new-look Illinois team that was heavily built via the portal.

The star of this team is former Texas Tech standout Terrance Shannon Jr. He is the engine of this team, and if Illinois wants to pull off the win on Thursday, they will need a big-time performance from Shannon. Illinois also added Matthew Mayer in the portal, a guy who won a national championship as part of the Baylor Bears. Arkansas comes into this game as a two-and-a-half-point favorite. 

I will be backing the Razorbacks on the moneyline here. This is a complete mismatch in my mind, and I expect the Razorbacks to win this game somewhat comfortably. Illinois is a team that can really struggle to create offense and face an athletic defense like Arkansas. I expect them to struggle to score with consistency in this game. Eric Musselman is one of the best coaches in this tournament, and I expect him to create a game plan that will limit Terrance Shannon and force someone else to beat them in this game.

The Illini only have one other play who averages double digits in Mayer. On the flip side of things, Arkansas has four active players who average double figures and can take over a game. This is a team that is too deep in my mind to be knocked out in the first round. Let’s start the tournament with a bang!

Arkansas vs Illinois Pick

Pick: Arkansas ML (-145) Bet $100 to collect $168 Get the best odds at FanDuel; click here to bet

Article Author

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Matt McCuen is a native of Delco, PA. He has been working in the sports gambling industry and creating content for the last few years. He is an expert in numerous different sports, including the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and collegiate sports. You can follow Matt on Twitter at @DeadPresPicks.

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