INDIANA HOOSIERS (20-2)
at ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI (15-8)
Assembly Hall - Champaign, IL
Tip-off: Thursday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Line: Indiana -7, Total: 149
The No.1 team in the nation looks for a sixth straight victory when Indiana visits struggling Illinois on Thursday night.
The Hoosiers have beaten teams by 16.2 PPG during their five-game win streak (2-3 ATS), most recently knocking off then-No. 1 Michigan, 81-73 on Saturday. The Illini began the season 12-0, but are just 3-8 (SU at ATS) in their past 11 games. They have suffered four consecutive home losses, with two of those defeats coming to unranked opponents (Northwestern and Wisconsin). This series has been tightly contested on the betting lines with each team going 5-5 ATS in the past 10 meetings, but Illinois is 5-2 SU in the past seven matchups, including three straight home victories by 31, 2 and 24 points. The Illini are 9-1 SU in the past 10 home games versus the Hoosiers.
Can Indiana cover the moderate spread in a tough road environment? For the answer, connect to College Basketball Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. The experts are sizzling, going 11-4 ATS (73%) in the past two days of college basketball Best Bets. StatFox Gary is 5-0 ATS in his past three days, improving to an impressive 57.3% ATS (75-56-1) mark for the season. StatFox Dave is 16-10 ATS (62%) in his past eight days to improve to 54% ATS (118-102-3) for the season. StatFox Brian is 4-2 ATS since Monday.
Indiana ranks among the nation's top-25 teams in four of the major offensive categories. The school has the second-most points (83.8 PPG), ranks sixth in shooting (50.1% FG), 15th in rebounding (40.2 RPG) and dishes out 15.8 APG (23rd in D-I). C Cody Zeller (16.3 PPG, 8.3 RPG) enters this game with two straight double-doubles, tallying 19 points and 11 boards at Purdue and then scoring 19 points (8-of-10 FG) with 10 boards in Saturday's win over Michigan. Zeller had 22 points on 5-of-8 FG and 12-of-14 FT in last season's win over Illinois. SG Victor Oladipo (14.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG) has 18.0 PPG (58% FG) and 3.5 SPG in his past four games. He now ranks eighth in the nation in FG Pct. (64.4%), shoots 51.4% from three-point range and swipes 2.5 SPG (15th in D-I). PF Christian Watford (12.9 PPG, 6.7 RPG) actually shoots better from behind the arc (47.9%) than from two-point range (42.7%). Both Oladipo and Watford tallied 18 points and five rebounds in last season's win over the Illini. PG Jordan Hulls (11.1 PPG, 3.3 APG) is also an incredible shooter from long range (49.1% 3-pt FG) who turns the ball over just once every 21.7 MPG this season. Hulls played a great game against Illinois last season with 15 points, seven assists and four rebounds. SF Will Sheehey (9.9 PPG, 3.8 RPG) is another sharp-shooter (50.3% FG, 38.3% threes), but was just 1-of-6 (0-for-4 threes) in Saturday's victory. PG Yogi Ferrell (7.7 PPG, 4.5 APG) has a strong 2.11 Ast/TO ratio, and he's also been on a roll in scoring points, averaging 12.8 PPG during a four-game, double-figure scoring streak.
Illinois has a decent offense (72.1 PPG, 73rd in D-I), but is not very efficient. The Illini make just 43.0% FG (32.8% threes) and dish out a paltry 10.7 APG (307th in nation). Senior G Brandon Paul (17.4 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.9 APG) is clearly the team's best player, scoring at least 13 points in 22 of 23 games this season. But in his team's past seven games (1-6 SU record), Paul has made just 35.5% of his shots (33-of-93 FG) and 9-of-42 (21%) from three-point range. Paul had 13 points and five assists in last season's loss to Indiana, but he made just 4-of-11 shots (1-for-5 threes) before fouling out. Backcourt mate D.J. Richardson (11.8 PPG, 4.4 RPG) scored 30 points in the Illini's last victory (Jan. 22 at Nebraska), but has just 12.0 PPG on 33.3% FG during the three-game losing skid. Richardson pumped in a team-high 19 points in the loss to the Hoosiers last season, making 6-of-13 FG and 5-of-12 threes. Sophomore G Tracy Abrams (11.4 PPG, 3.3 APG, 3.7 RPG) has scored at least 10 points in eight of his past 10 games, but has just 26 assists and 24 turnovers in the past eight contests. Illinois does not have the most skilled big men, but both SF Joseph Bertrand (8.7 PPG, 4.6 RPG) and C Nnanna Egwu (6.6 PPG, 4.8 RPG) are improving. Bertrand notched a season-high 17 points (8-of-12 FG) and seven rebounds in Sunday's loss to Wisconsin, and Egwu added 14 points, seven rebounds and two blocks on Sunday. Staying out of foul trouble will be key to his team's success on Thursday, as Egwu has committed at least four fouls in each of his past seven games, fouling out of three of these contests.