College Basketball Predictions: Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. Illinois Fighting Illini

No. 8 Minnesota Golden Gophers at No. 12 Illinois Fighting Illini
Wednesday, 1/9/12, 9:00 PM EST, TV:  Big Ten Network
Opening Point Spread:  Minnesota -1.5
Current Betting Line:  Minnesota -1.5
Opening Total:  141.5
Current Total:  141.5
Odds Courtesy of Bookmaker

The Minnesota Golden Gophers have dominated opponents on the boards this year

Minnesota hits the road after playing its last four games at home, as it comes off an impressive 69-51 win over the Northwestern Wildcats as 17-point favorites, while going UNDER the total for the third time in four opportunities.  The Golden Gophers will have the opportunity to start the conference season 3-0 for the first time since the 1974-75 squad, as their 4-0 mark in 1996-97 was vacated.  It’s all about pounding the glass with this program, averaging 41.3 rebounds per game, which is the highest average in that particular category in the Tubby Smith era.  Minnesota is 2-2 ATS as a road favorite of three points or less since 2010, which can’t be ignored when looking over the college basketball betting odds Wednesday night.

The Golden Gophers have three probable starters averaging in double figures, with Andre Hollins leading the way in scoring 13.1 points per game, as he’s shooting 41 percent from the 3-point area.  Minnesota is also the top team in the Big Ten in terms of blocked shots and steals, which is important to consider when making your college basketball picks against the spread.

Illinois has alternated wins and losses over its last five games, as it comes off a 74-55 victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes as three-point home underdogs, while going UNDER in consecutive contests.  The Fighting Illini are 2-1 against ranked teams this season, as they prepare to take on a ranked Minnesota squad at Assembly Hall for the first time since Jan. 14, 1997.  Senior guard Brandon Paul is the player to watch offensively, scoring in double figures in all 16 games this season.  Illinois is 3-1 ATS as an underdog this year, with the OVER going 3-1 in that situation.

The Fighting Illini got after it on the defensive end last time out, limiting the Buckeyes to a season-low 55 points.  Paul does everything on the floor for this program, leading the team in points, rebounds and assists—one of seven players nationally to lead his squad in all of those categories.  Illinois currently ranks third in the NCAA in averaging 9.4 3-point field goals made per game.

Sports bettors will likely back the Golden Gophers due to their 8-0 ATS mark on the road, while the Fighting Illini are 3-13 ATS in their last 16 conference games.

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