NCAA Basketball Monday Night Picks: Illinois Fighting Illini at (22) Wisconsin Badgers

Wisconsin is heady favorites over the struggling Fighting Illini.

Illinois at (22) Wisconsin

Time: 6:30 PM (CT), FS1

Spread: WIS -9.5

Total: 135

Odds c/o 5dimes

Wisconsin is 17-8 and in fifth place in the Big Ten. It is currently ranked No. 22 in the nation and will host visiting Illinois as 9.5-point favorites in NCAA basketball action Monday night. The over/under is set at 135 points according to NCAA basketball oddsmakers at bookmaker 5dimes.

WISC

Wisconsin has won five straight games to improve to 9-5 in Big Ten play. It trails conference-leading Michigan by 2.5 games in the ACC standings, a deficit it can no longer make up. The Badgers are led by Ethan Happ and his 18 points, 10.5 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game. The 6’10” senior forward has increased his scoring average all four seasons at Wisconsin, and he is shooting 54.5 percent from the field. Happ is a very poor free throw shooter, though, which causes alarm with regard to his abilities as a clutch time performer. Happ shoots just 44 percent from the line on 4.4 attempts per game, but he does everything else so well it is easy to overlook. Happ is a defensive threat too with his 2.2 blocks/steals per game, and he had a sensational game in the 59-67 loss to then-No. 11 Michigan State on Feb 12. He finished with 20 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, two steals, and one block in 35 minutes while shooting 10 of 20 from the field.

Wisconsin’s No. 2 and No. 3 options, D’Mitrik Trice and Brad Davison, average 12.7 points and 11 points, each, respectively. After those top three scorers, though, the Badgers are short on major scoring options, and the team averages just 70.1 per game. Trice and Davison each see better than 30 minutes a night, but no other rotation players see more than 22 minutes per game. Wisconsin makes up for it with a defense that limits opponents to just 61.3 points per game, and the Badgers average 70.1 itself, good for a +8.8 point differential. Wisconsin manages just 13.1 assists per game, as an offense that more or less revolves around Happ’s creative abilities as a stretch-5. Trice has struggled the last five games, managing to score just 34 points over that span, or 6.8 points per game. Wisconsin will need its secondary scoring options to get going to be any kind of real tournament threat because Happ is not capable of carrying this team deep on his own.

ILL

Illinois is 10-15 on the season but it has lost seven of its last nine overall. The Fighting Illini have really struggled defensively, giving up 74.8 points per game on the season, while scoring 74.4 itself (-0.4 point differential). The Fighting Illini are led by the trio of Trent Frazier, Ayo Dosunmu, and Giorgi Bezhanishvili. Frazier leads the team in scoring with 14.7 points per game, while Dosunmu and Bezhaniskvili contribute 14.2 and 12.2, respectively.

Illinois shoots just 34.3 percent from three-point range, but Frazier is good for 41.8 percent and leads the team. Aaron Jordan is No. 2 in percentage at 39.3 percent, but there are six players shooting below 36 percent on the season, and Illinois struggles at the line too where it shoots just 68.5 percent as a team. These fatal flaws hamper the Fighting Illini’s chances at success since the team defense is already so poor. Frazier is just a sophomore and he has made impressive strides since his freshman season. He’s elevated his field goal percentage to a nearly-respectable 42.2 percent while averaging 30.1 minutes per game and coming up with 1.5 steals per night.

Frazier represents the best chance the Fighting Illini have to climb in the Big Ten, but Illinois will need to get some top recruits to accent the point guard before it can be regarded as a threat to teams like its opponent tonight. The Badgers are rightfully nearly double-digit favorites.

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