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Illinois vs. Connecticut Expert Pick and Prediction – March 30, 2024

Illinois vs. Connecticut Expert Pick and Prediction – March 30, 2024 

ILLINOIS VS. CONNECTICUT EXPERT PICK AND PREDICTION – March 30, 2024 — Can anything slow down Connecticut? Both the Huskies and Purdue have appeared nigh-invincible this March, as Connecticut has pulverized one opponent after another. St. John’s has been the only team to make Connecticut even sweat in the past six weeks, as the Huskies have won eight of their other nine games by no fewer than 14 points.

But if there is a team that can score with Connecticut, it might be Illinois.

The Illini haven’t been this deep in the field in 20 years, but they’ve shrugged off the Big Ten tournament champion’s curse and made it past Iowa State. In that game, the Illini had to go through the No. 1 defense in the nation; now they get the No. 1 offense. But Illinois has an advantage Connecticut doesn’t: questions exist about how well the Huskies’ slate prepared them for these games.

Related: Sweet 16 Power Rankings

As dominant as Connecticut has looked in March, it also hasn’t really played that great of a slate. League mates Marquette and Creighton were both dismissed in the round of 16, with the Bluejays understandably going out to Tennessee and the Golden Eagles much less understandably never competing against N.C. State.

Marquette is far and away the best team the Huskies have seen in the past 10 weeks, while Illinois squared off twice with Purdue. If anything takes down Connecticut, it might be that they’re not prepared for a team that’s been sharpened by Big Ten steel.

The Odds 







(29-8 SU, 22-13-2 ATS) 






(34-3 SU, 25-12 ATS)






When: Saturday, March 30 at 6:10 p.m. EST 

Where: TD Garden, Boston


Public Bets: 73% on Connecticut 

Public Money: 81% on Connecticut

Odds courtesy of DraftKings, as of March 29th, 2024

Illinois vs. Connecticut In-Season Trends 

Both of these teams have been incredible bets in March. Illinois has covered in five straight games, while Connecticut has gone 9-1 ATS in its past 10. The difference is how these teams have gotten these numbers.

Illinois has done it by simply outscoring teams, as the Illini had played five straight overs before running into Iowa State. The Illini can play a defensive game, but they prefer to get out and run.

Related: Clemson vs. Alabama Pick and Prediction

Connecticut puts the brakes on everyone it faces. The only exception was St. John’s, which was able to hang around and score with the Huskies because of its offensive rebounding. That’s a worry for the Huskies, because Illinois presents the same type of problems that the Red Storm did. Nobody else that Connecticut has played even resembles Illinois, and this comes on a quick turnaround.

The Difference-Makers 

As good as Terrence Shannon has been, Coleman Hawkins might be Illinois’ most important player. The Illini excel on the offensive glass, and Connecticut gives up a lot of shots. The Huskies focus more on defending against shots rather than forcing steals, but against Hawkins’ offensive rebounding and interior scoring, that’s going to be a different challenge.

Related: Clemson vs. Arizona Pick and Prediction

In the win over St. John’s, Donovan Clingan was ineffective. He only stayed on the court for 19 minutes and came up with five defensive rebounds. The Red Storm grabbed 17 offensive rebounds and got off 17 more shots than the Huskies did that game. Clingan has to play a stronger game to get the Huskies to Arizona.

The Pick 

Connecticut has dominated three games in a row in this tournament, but this Illinois team represents a totally different challenge. The Huskies have played outstanding basketball all year, but this is the first time in over a month where they’re facing a team that can actually stand up to them.

This line’s too high, even if the Huskies do survive. I’m backing the Illini here.

Dan’s Picks 

 Illinois +8.5  

 Over 155.5



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