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Can Illinois Get Back on Track?

Fighting Illini Look to Rebound After Loss to Purdue

The Illinois Fighting Illini are 6-1 in Big Ten play, at the top of the conference and very much in contention for the conference championship entering Friday’s matchup at Maryland.

They have rebounded well this season after being stunned in the 2021 NCAA Tournament as a No. 1 seed. They lost in the second round and fell far short of expectations.

Can Illinois Get Back On Track?
Michael Hickey/Getty Images/AFP

This season, Illinois doesn’t have Ayo Dosunmu, who is now thriving with the Chicago Bulls. It was easy to think the Illini would be significantly worse without him, but they have done well thanks to some transfers and a very cohesive lineup.

Illinois finally did lose a Big Ten game on Monday, in double overtime to No. 4 Purdue. It’s important to avoid losing consecutive games for their March Madness odds. Maryland awaits on the road on Friday.

Let’s take a closer look at this NBA betting preview and see what’s the best side to take versus the NBA odds.

  • Game: Illinois (13-4) at Maryland (9-8)
  • Location: XFINITY Center – College Park, MD
  • Day/Time: Friday, 7 p.m. ET
  • Television: Fox Sports 1

Illinois Fighting Illini at Maryland Terrapins

Lessons Need to be Learned From Purdue Loss

The Illinois loss to Purdue was a highly competitive game against a team believed to be in the hunt for the Final Four. It’s not a bad loss.

Nevertheless, it represented a roadblock for a team trying to win a conference championship. Illinois can’t let that Purdue loss snowball and turn into a losing streak. The Illini allowed almost 40 points in the first half and did not begin that game with the level of defensive focus they needed to win. They also did not shoot free throws well.

What hurt them in overtime, after they scrambled to rally and tie the game with a strong second-half surge was star big man Kofi Cockburn fouling out. That left the Illini vulnerable to dribble penetration and low-post entries to Purdue’s big men.

There’s your checklist for Illinois in this game: Make free throws at a higher rate. Send a statement early at the defensive end of the floor. Keep Cockburn out of foul trouble.

If Illinois can do those three things, it should win. Keep in mind that when Illinois played Maryland a few weeks ago, Cockburn got into early foul trouble in the first half and the Terrapins rallied. The Illini pulled away in the second half for a 76-64 win.

If Cockburn plays more than 32 or 33 minutes, Illinois should be in great shape.

Maryland needs a lightning bolt to shake up its season

Maryland fired longtime coach Mark Turgeon very early in the season. Danny Manning, who, like Turgeon, played college basketball at Kansas, was a Turgeon assistant.

He was promoted to interim head coach. Manning, you might remember, previously coached at Tulsa and Wake Forest. He has experience as a head coach.

Yet, he hasn’t done all that well as a head coach and his Maryland tenure has been no different. The Terps came close against Wisconsin but collapsed late against Rutgers.

The Terps won at Northwestern, and that’s their only Big Ten win to date. A win over Illinois might begin to change the conversation surrounding Maryland and its capabilities.

Will Maryland Rise Up?

The fact that this is a rematch of a game played earlier in the season (at Illinois) gives Maryland a sense of familiarity with the Illini. That will probably keep this game close, so Maryland plus points is a good play.

Illinois on the moneyline still looks good in the sportsbook.

Parlay: Maryland -4½ & Under 137

Pick: Under 137

Pick: Illinois -195

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