CBB Pick 2/21/24: #12 Illinois Fighting Illini Face Penn State

Illinois vs. Penn State CBB Pick ATS
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#12 Illinois Fighting Illini Face Penn State

The #12 Illinois Fighting Illini travel to State College, PA, on Wednesday, February 21st, 2024, for a Big Ten clash against the Penn State Nittany Lions. With vastly different trajectories and momentum on both sides, this matchup offers a compelling storyline, especially considering the surprising twist of Penn State losing their top scorer.

The Powerhouse on the Road

Illinois enters the contest in 2nd place in the Big Ten with a formidable 19-6 overall record and an impressive 10-4 mark in conference play. While their road record remains somewhat balanced at 4-4, their current streak of winning five of their last six speaks volumes about their form. Terrence Shannon Jr. remains the catalyst for Illinois, averaging an impressive 21.4 points per game.

Nittany Lions Battling Adversity

Penn State, in contrast, finds themselves near the bottom of the Big Ten with a 12-14 overall record and a 6-9 conference mark. Despite that, their 10-4 home record indicates they shouldn’t be taken lightly on their home court. Yet, the recent news of losing their leading scorer, Kanye Clary (16.7 points per game), has dealt a major blow to their offensive capabilities.

Key Battleground: Inside the Paint

The most glaring statistical mismatch lies in rebounding. Illinois is a force on the boards, ranked 4th nationally with 38.7 rebounds per game. Penn State, without Clary, appears outmatched and ranks a dismal 340th with an average of just 28.7 rebounds per game.

Clash of Styles and Recent Form

While Illinois comes in with a top offensive efficiency ranking (5th), Penn State sits considerably lower at 94th, according to KenPom. In games versus common opponents, Illinois holds a dominant 22-11 record and a winning margin of 8.2 points, while Penn State languishes at 7-22, losing by an average of 7 points. Penn State’s recent stretch of three consecutive losses adds to their uphill battle.

Beware of Our Model on this One

Despite the statistical odds favoring Illinois, a surprising twist emerges. Last season, Penn State swept the series against Illinois, winning all three meetings. While our model predicts a Penn State victory (using historical data that includes Clary), with scores of 82-72 (full season data) and a closer 82-79 (last 7 games), Clary’s absence remains a huge wildcard.

Can the Nittany Lions Rally?

Will Penn State find a way to rally after losing their leading scorer and stun the favored Illinois squad? Or will the Fighting Illini use their rebounding dominance and overall momentum to continue their strong play? Tune in at 6:30 PM EST on the Big Ten Network to witness this battle of contrasting Big Ten programs.

Our Pick

Penn State was already up against it in this one even with Clary in the lineup. With him gone, this one could get ugly. Lay the big spot with Illinois on the road.

Illinois -7.5

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