Arkansas Razorbacks vs Illinois Fighting Illini March Madness Betting Preview

The 9 seed owns a 76-72 Advantage Over the 8 Seed All-Time

Welcome to the reason most brackets will be broken on day one. This is the only match-up where the higher seed has a winning record against the lower seed. That should be a huge tip for bettors, especially in this Arkansas vs. Illinois matchup where this particular March Madness point spread allows you to grab a couple of points with the ninth seed. Neither team has a spot in the College Basketball rankings but many bettors are anticipating one of the most competitive games of the first round.

ARKRazorbacks vs IllinoisILL

Date, time:
Location: wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines, Iowa
Region: West

Illini Will Go As far as Shannon Takes Them

Terrance Shannon is the heart and soul of the Illini basketball team and will be heavily relied on to get them through to the next round. The former Texas Tech transfer averaged 17.1 points per game this season and was named to the Big 10 all-conference first team. To give you an idea of his importance, Shannon missed two games and part of a third when he suffered a concussion against Penn State on the 14th of February. The Illini proceeded to lose that game and their next game against Indiana. Even in their win against Minnesota, they couldn’t shake the Gophers in their 78-69 win, a game they failed to cover a 13-point spread. Illinois will be making its 33rd trip to the tournament as look to add to a resume that includes five Final Four appearances and a National Title loss to North Carolina in 2005, 75-70.

How the Illini Got Here

Brad Underwood’s’ team doesn’t do many things great but they’re a terrific rebounding team who gets back on defense quickly while being tenacious on defense. Underwoods’ lunch pail team lost to Penn in the first round of the Big 10 Tournament, 79-76, as a 3-point favorite and have now lost 4 of their last six games overall while owning the same record against the spread in that span. Their last three games have cashed over tickets.

How Far Can Illinois Go?

Despite a record that suggests they would be a tough bet for the public, the Illini have a profitable 16-13 ATS record. A nice bounce-back year after a 12-19 ATS record last year. That helps out their five-year total of 72-75 ATS (-900) which includes a 4-6 ATS postseason mark. The problem with an 8 vs. 9 match-ups is that a win only means you’ll likely face the top seed in the next round, likely Kansas. It’s not unlikely that Illinois could find themselves in their 12th Sweet Sixteen against Uconn.

Razorbacks an Unreliable Wager Down the Stretch

Arkansas failed to cover 12 of their last 21 games, helped out by a seven-game stretch starting at the end of December where they went three weeks without a cover. In the SEC tournament, they got off to a good start with an ATS win against Auburn as a -25. Point favorite (76-73), but fell to Texas A&M in the second round as a 1-point favorite (67-61). In many ways, their team statistics mirror their head-scratching inconsistencies. Illinois ranks 33rd in the nation with a 47.5% field goal percentage, but just 301st from beyond the arc where they shoot 32.1%.

How They Got Here

Good question. With their second-round SEC Tournament exit and losers of four of their last five games, it’s likely they rode the strength of their net ranking (21st) into the ninth seed. Their RPI was more of a reflection of where they should be with a ranking of 31. Arkansas was just 4-10 against quadrant one teams but did own the 3rd toughest schedule in the country. Those were good enough for the committee to put them up as high as they did.

How Far Will They Go?

Round one is going to be a tough ask. It’s our opinion that they will be an early out because of their inability to show that they can use the three-point shot to get back into games they fall behind.

Handicapping the Game

To conclude our Illinois vs Arkansas preview, let’s jump into the betting numbers for each. Illinois has been an underdog five times this season, covering four of those games. They are 2-3 ATS on a neutral court. They are 10-8 ATS against teams over .500 and 2-0 against teams who own an under .500 spread record. The Razorbacks are just 11-11 on the season as a favorite, but 5-2 on a neutral court. It’s difficult to put our trust behind Arkansas which hasn’t shown that they deserve it over the last few weeks. (Odds change frequently, be sure to check for the most up to date changes.)

That concludes our Illinois vs. Arkansas preview, we wish you the best with this year’s tournament.


Last Updated: 03/13/2023 Teams
Spread: Razorbacks -2.5 (-115)
Total: 144.5
Moneyline: Razorbacks -150, Illini +125
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