The Illinois Fighting Illini (23-6) take on the Drexel Dragons (12-7) in a Midwest Region First Round game on Friday afternoon. The top-seeded Illini and 16th-seeded Dragons will tip off at 1:15 p.m. ET at Indiana Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis. Below, we analyze the Illinois-Drexel odds and lines, with March Madness NCAA Tournament picks and predictions.
The Fighting Illini — ranked second in the Ferris Mowers Coaches Poll powered by USA TODAY Sports — won the Big Ten Tournament by defeating No. 7 Ohio State, 91-88, in overtime. Illinois gets significant and diverse contributions from two First Team All-Big Ten selections (C Kofi Cockburn and G Ayo Dosunmu), the Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year (G Andre Curbelo), and a member of the Big Ten All-Defensive Team (G Trent Frazier).
Courtesy winning the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament, Drexel is playing in its first NCAA Tournament since 1996. A solid shooting team (DU ranks in the top-60 nationally in 2-point, 3-point and free-throw shooting), the Dragons are an offense-first group that plays at a relatively slow pace. Drexel has logged an effective field-goal mark of 54%-or-better in eight of its last 10 games.
Illinois vs. Drexel: Odds, spread and lines
- Money line: Illinois -3000 (bet $3,000 to win $100) | Drexel +1400 (bet $100 to win $1,400)
- Against the spread/ATS: Illinois -22.5 (-110) | Drexel +22.5 (-110)
- Over/Under: 143.5 (O: -110 | U: -110)
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Illinois vs. Drexel: Odds, lines, predictions and picks
Illinois 81, Drexel 65
Money line (ML)
PASS on true odds bracketed by these prices.
Against the spread (ATS)
Drexel is 5-0 ATS on neutral floors and 11-3 ATS in combined road/neutral games.
This is a tortoise-and-the-hare matchup between the turtle-pace Dragons and rabbit-pace Illini. And while that doesn’t necessarily bode well for Drexel, it may not be a clash of pace with which Illinois is all-too-comfortable. The Illini have fared well against slower Big Ten squads of late, but earlier in the season the slow-down game was a bit of a blind spot.
What Drexel really needs to do to keep this margin in the teens is knock down 3-pointers. The Dragons have done so against lesser competition (shooting 38.9% from beyond the arc); can they do it against this level of talent and against a U of I squad that defends the perimeter at a top-50 level?
Peg Illinois as worthy of a little fade action off a hard-working set of Big Ten brackets. TAG DREXEL +22.5 (-110) AS A PLAY WITH MODERATE VALUE.
Pegging the game-flow here is difficult. Only a slight lean toward the Over can be gleaned, and it doesn’t bring enough value to warrant any action. PASS.
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