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Illinois vs. ULNV
Betting Line: UNLV -2 O/U 132
Did you know that 9 seeds have won a majority of the games against 8 seeds since the NCAA Tournament began? This is a nice stat, but don't think you should pick a winner out in the UNLV v Illinois game without getting our analysis first! The Runnin' Rebs have a wonderful program as do the Illini. Both will vie for a chance to continue dancing when they meet in the first round.
The Bruce Weber led Illini played great for half a season and really fell apart after that. Their record of 19-13 includes wins over UNC, Gonzaga, Oakland, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Michigan. Bad losses came against Illinois-Chicago (...who?), Indiana and Northwestern. They were 7-10 in their last 17 games and 8-13 against NCAA Tournament (this number is inflated by 2 teams that won minor conference tournaments).
Playing in the better-than-usual Mountain West, UNLV finished third with a record of 11-5 in conference play and 24-8 overall. If you take out losses to BYU and San Diego State they would have been an incredible 24-3. Quality wins came against Wisconsin, Virginia Tech, Kansas State and New Mexico. The Runnin' Rebels are doing well after almost beating SDSU, but falling short 74-72. They had won 7 of 8 before that.
Illinois is led by senior G Demetri McCamey (14.8 PPG, 6.1 APG). The 6-3 guard has stepped his game up toward the end of the year with scoring totals higher than his average in 3 of his last 4 games. He had a double-double against Michigan State and 21 points when the Illini beat Wisconsin. Mike Davis (12 PPG, 7.1 RPG) is another senior this team depends on. He does well on the boards, but not as well as fellow senior Mike Tisdale (10.1 PPG, 6.4 RPG). The 7-1 player won't be an easy matchup for UNLV.
Tre'Von Willis leads the charge for UNLV with 13.5 PPG. He won't drop a ton of points, but the senior leadership he provides is irreplaceable. Chace Stanback (13 PPG, 6 RPG) will have his work cut out for him undernearth as he is a bit smaller than his foes on Illinois at 6-8. Sophomore Quintrell Thomas (6.6 PPG, 5.2 RPG) will have to play well for the Rebels to win. He had 19 points and 13 rebounds against New Mexico to go with 14 points against Virginia Tech.
UNLV opened up pick em in this game and has been bet up to -2. However, our numbers like Illinois to win straight up by 4. Our numbers this year have been at their best when picking underdogs to win straight up so that's the way we'll go here.
Predicted Score: Illonois 68 UNLV 64
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