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Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Morehead State Eagles Expert Pick – March 21, 2024

Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Morehead State Eagles Expert Pick – March 21, 2024

ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI VS. MOREHEAD STATE EAGLES EXPERT PICK – MARCH 21, 2024 — Greetings, basketball fans. Welcome to our NCAA tournament coverage here at Godzilla Wins. One of the games on tap from the first-round slate of games features the Illinois Fighting Illini (26-8) taking on the Morehead State Eagles (26-8).

Here is a look at which squad has the edge going into this matchup and why.


When: Thursday, March 21, 2024

Time: 3:10 PM ET

Where: CHI Health Center Omaha

Location: Omaha, NE



Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Morehead State Eagles Odds






Illinois Fighting Illini

(26-8 SU)





Morehead State Eagles

(26-8 SU)





Odds courtesy of DraftKings

Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Morehead State Eagles – Regular Season Stats & Betting Trends

Can The Fighting Illini Knock Off Defensive-Minded Morehead State?

 Illinois Fighting Illini Season Stats:

  • Scoring Offense: 84.4 PPG – 8TH
  • Offensive Efficiency: 118.8 points per 100 possessions – 8TH
  • Scoring Defense: 73.8 PPG – 240TH                  
  • Defensive Efficiency: 103.9 points per 100 possessions – 182ND

The Fighting Illini are in the tournament for the fourth consecutive year and are just one of 14 teams to accomplish this feat during that stretch. Illinois concluded its 2023-24 campaign with eight wins across its last 10 decisions.

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This includes a 93-87 win over the Wisconsin Badgers on Sunday. Terrence Shannon Jr. paced the team’s offense with 34 points on 8-for-15 shooting from the floor, 3-for-6 from beyond the arc, and 15-of-17 from the charity stripe.

He also collected four rebounds, two assists, and one steal. Marcus Domask – the only other Fighting Illini player in double figures – finished with 26 points (8-for-11 shooting) along with seven rebounds, and eight assists.

The Fighting Illini are a formidable scoring opponent as they finished with the eighth-best scoring average in the nation. Additionally, they have scored at least 90 points five times in their last eight outings. With that in mind, the team’s chances of moving on will improve if they put up at least 85 points.

Can Morehead State Pull Off A First-Round Upset?

 Morehead State Eagles Season Stats:

  • Scoring Offense: 75.5 PPG – 120TH
  • Offensive Efficiency: 113.9 points per 100 possessions – 33RD        
  • Scoring Defense: 62.8 PPG – 8TH
  • Defensive Efficiency: 94.8 points per 100 possessions – 8TH

Meanwhile, although Morehead State enters this matchup as a double-digit underdog, they have been playing some good basketball as well. They have posted wins in each of their previous six outings.

This includes a 69-55 victory against the Little Rock Trojans on March 9. Three of their starters scored in double figures, headlined by a 26-point, seven-rebound effort from Riley Minix.

Drew Thelwell added 21 points, four rebounds, and two assists, while Kalil Thomas contributed 13 points, four points, and four rebounds. While the favored Fighting Illini will look to run up the scoreboard, the Eagles come into this contest with a defensive state of mind.

They are holding opponents to 62.8 points per game. Not only that, but they have also limited the opposition to 56.8 points per outing during their six-game winning streak, with only two of their opponents shooting better than 40 percent during that stretch. Simply put, Morehead State will need to slow this game to a crawl to pull off the upset.

Now that we have set the table for this first-round matchup, let’s look at the betting trends for both sides.

The Spread

Illinois opened as a 13.5-point favorite, but the line has dipped to 11.5 points (per Here is a look at how both ball clubs have fared against the spread this season.

  • The Fighting Illini are 18-14-1 ATS this season.
  • In the 10 times it was favored by 11.5 points or more, Illinois is 4-6 against the spread.
  • The Eagles have covered the spread 19 times this season.
  • In the four instances in which it was an 11.5-point underdog or greater, Morehead State is 1-3 against the spread.

Prediction: Fighting Illini (-11.5)


The projected over/under total for this matchup opened at 147.5 points. At the time of this writing, the line has moved to 148 points (per DraftKings). Here are a few reasons suggesting that going with the “over” is the smart choice.

  • The total has gone OVER 22 times this season for the Fighting Illini.
  • The OVER total has prevailed five times in the Eagles’ last 10 contests.
  • The two teams average a combined 159.9 points per game, which is 11.9 points more than the projected total for this contest.

Prediction: OVER 148 points

Player Prop Bet

The key player to watch for the Fighting Illini is Terrence Shannon Jr. He currently has -110 odds of scoring more than 24.5 points and -120 odds of finishing with less than 24.5 points.

Here is a glance to see how his numbers stack up against the projected points total for this matchup.

  • During the season, Shannon averaged 23 points per game across 28 outings.
  • In his last five outings, Shannon exceeded the points total for this matchup four times.
  • During the month of March, he is averaging 26.8 PPG on 45.1 percent shooting from the floor and 40 percent from beyond the arc.

Prediction: Terrence Shannon Jr. OVER 24.5 points

Fresh off a 26-point, seven-rebound performance against Little Rock, Riley Minix is the key player to watch for the Eagles. He currently has +105 odds of scoring more than 19.5 points and -135 odds of scoring less than 19.5 points.

  • During the season, Minix averaged 20.8 points per game across 34 appearances.
  • Minix has exceeded the points total for this matchup four times in his last five outings.
  • In March, Minix is averaging 23.8 points per game on 51.5 percent shooting from the floor.

Prediction: Riley Minix OVER 19.5 points

James Tillman’s Fighting Illini vs. Eagles Picks

Spread: Fighting Illini (-11.5)

Over/Under: OVER 148 points

Player Prop Bet #1: Terrence Shannon Jr. OVER 24.5 points

Player Prop Bet #2: Riley Minix OVER 19.5 points

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