Northwestern Wildcats at Illinois Fighting Illini Prediction ATS

by | Last updated Feb 23, 2023 | cbb

Northwestern Wildcats (20-7 SU, 17-10 ATS) at Illinois Fighting Illini (18-9, 17-10), 2/23/23
When: 9 pm ET Thursday, Feb. 23
Where: State Farm Center
CBB Betting Line: NW +5.5/Ill -5.5
Over/under: 135.5

The Big 10 offers up an interesting in-state rivalry bout Thursday night when No. 21 Northwestern takes on Illinois in Champaign. The Wildcats are having their best season in, well, almost 100 years! The Illini, meanwhile, might be without their leading scorer for the third straight game.

How are we playing this one with our free NW/Ill pick?

College Basketball Betting Odds

Thursday’s CBB betting lines opened Illinois at -5.5, with an over/under of right around 136. Both figures were holding steady in the early betting action.

According to Sagarin’s CBB ratings at, Illinois should only be favored by 3.5 points for this match-up.

Northwestern Betting Preview

The Wildcats ride a five-game winning streak into Thursday night after beating Iowa last Sunday 80-60. Northwestern scored the first bucket of the game and never trailed. The Wildcats led 37-26 at the half, let the Hawkeyes get within 47-40 early in the second half, then pulled away from there for the outright victory as two-point dogs.

Northwestern shot 49 percent from the floor Sunday, held Iowa to 43 percent shooting, and won the turnover battle 15-10.

Two games ago, the Wildcats blew a 21-point lead against Indiana, then won it 64-62 on a hoop with two seconds left. Three games ago, Northwestern rallied from down eight with four minutes left to beat then-No. 1 Purdue 64-58.

Going back a month, the Wildcats are 8-2 in both SU and ATS over their last ten games.

At 11-5 in conference play, Northwestern sits in second place in the Big 10, a game and a half behind the first-place Boilermakers. The Wildcats are also closing in on clinching a top-four seed for the upcoming Big 10 tournament, which earns one a double-bye. And at 20-7 overall Northwestern looks like it’s headed to the NCAA tournament for just the second time in school history.

Illinois Betting Preview

Meanwhile, the Illini just snapped a two-game losing skid with a 78-69 win over Minnesota Monday night. Illinois went up by double-digits seven minutes into the game and led 35-29 at the half. The Illini then scored the first eight points of the second half and never let the Gophers get closer than eight from there on their way to the win.

However, Illinois came up short of ATS at -13.5 against the worst team in the conference.

The Illini shot 48 percent from the floor Monday and won the battle on the glass 37-33.

Two games ago, Illinois lost at Indiana 71-68. Three games ago, the Illini fell at Penn State 93-81.

At 9-7 in conference play, Illinois remains in the running for one of those top-four seeds for the upcoming Big 10 tournament. And at 18-9 overall, the Illini look like good bets to make the NCAA tournament.

On the injury front, Illinois G Terrence Shannon (17 points per game this season) missed the last two games (concussion) and is listed as questionable for Thursday night.

Northwestern-Illinois Recent History

The Illini beat the Wildcats eight times in a row from 2019 through last season but only played 4-4 ATS over that streak because they were favored by too much four times. Last year Illinois swept two games from Northwestern by scores of 59-56 and 73-66 but couldn’t cover at -5.5 and -10.5. Then back in January, the Wildcats broke through and took the first meeting between these teams this season 73-60.

That game sneaked under a total of 134 as the teams combined to shoot just 35 percent from the field.

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College Basketball Betting Trends

Northwestern is 9-4 ATS this season as an underdog.

Northwestern is 4-0 ATS over the last four meetings with Illinois.

Totals Report

  1. The Unders are 17-10 in Wildcats games this season and are averaging 131 total points.
  2. The Unders are 14-12 in Illini games this season, which are averaging 140 points.
  3. The Unders are 5-0 over the last five meetings between these teams.

Free College Basketball Betting Pick

This isn’t your usual Northwestern team. They convinced us of that when they beat No. 1 Purdue, then avoided a letdown and won the next time out, too. Also, the Wildcats are shooting 75 percent from the free-throw line this season. In fact, Northwestern shot 32/40 from the line in its earlier victory over Illinois. Meanwhile, the Illini might again play without their leading scorer. We’ll ride the Wildcats Thursday night.