Illinois vs Iowa Picks and Predictions: Murray's Return Gives Edge to Hawkeyes

With Keegan Murray back, Iowa is in a good position to bounce back from its first loss of the year. While Illinois big man Kofi Cockburn may be a monster on the glass, the Hawkeyes should reward faith in the home faves. That and more in our college basketb

Rohit Ponnaiya - Betting Analyst at
Rohit Ponnaiya • Betting Analyst
Dec 6, 2021 • 12:32 ET • 4 min read
Keegan Murray Iowa Hawkeyes College Basketball
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

The college basketball betting board for Monday is headlined by a Big Ten battle between the Illinois Fighting Illini and the Iowa Hawkeyes.

The Hawkeyes will try to bounce back from their first loss of the season and are 3-point home favorites for this conference showdown at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Here are our best free college basketball betting picks and predictions for Illinois vs. Iowa on Monday, December 6, with tipoff at 7 p.m. ET.

Illinois vs Iowa odds

Odds via the Covers Line, an average comprised of odds from multiple sportsbooks.

This line opened with the Hawkeyes as 3-point favorites with the Over/Under at 152. Early money has come in on the Under, dropping the total to 150.5.

Use the live odds widget above to track any future line movements right up until tip-off and be sure to check out the full college basketball odds before placing your bets.

Illinois vs Iowa predictions

Predictions made on 12/6/2021 at 12:05 p.m. ET.
Click on each prediction to jump to the full analysis.

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Illinois vs Iowa game info

Location: Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City, IA
Date: Monday, December 6, 2021
Tip-off: 7:00 p.m. ET
TV: Fox Sports 1

Illinois at Iowa betting preview


Illinois: Andre Curbelo G (Questionable).
Iowa: Keegan Murray F (Probable).

Find our latest NCAA basketball injury reports.

Betting trend to know

The Home team is 6-1 ATS in the last seven meetings between these conference rivals. Find more NCAA betting trends for Illinois vs. Iowa.

Illinois vs Iowa picks and predictions

Our predictions are compiled from the analysis of the spread and total and are indications of where we are leaning for this game.
Our best bet is the play that we like the most for this game, which we would actually put some of our bankroll behind.

Illinois began the season going 2-2 with a pair of losses as a favorite against Marquette and Cincinnati. The Fighting Illini have since reeled off four wins in a row and are coming off a dominant 86-51 home victory against Rutgers.

Illinois is strong on both ends of the floor, ranking 19th in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency according to KenPom while ranking 21st in adjusted defensive efficiency. The Illini are led by the inside/outside combination of seven-foot 285-pound center Kofi Cockburn (24 points and 10.6 rebounds per game) and sharpshooting guard Alfonso Plummer (15.1 ppg on 46/42/100 shooting).

The Hawkeyes are coming off a 77-70 road loss to the Purdue Boilermakers, who are currently the No. 2 ranked team in the country. Prior to that defeat, they had opened their season with seven straight wins, including a 75-74 victory against Virginia in Charlottesville.

The Hawkeyes went through plenty of changes in the offseason with three starters departing, including National Player of the Year Luka Garza. They did return point guard Jordan Bohannon for his sixth year, while forward Keegan Murray has exploded with a bigger role on offense, leading the team with 24.6 points per game on 61.2 percent shooting. 

Both teams have impressed lately and we're not going to hold the Hawkeyes' loss to the No. 2 Boilermakers against them, especially when they were playing without Murray and fought back in the second half. Murray is expected to be back in the lineup tonight and, if he's ready to roll, Iowa will be very tough to beat on its home floor. 

Two other factors that could play a big role are turnovers and free throws. Iowa has committed the fewest turnovers per possession (11.3%) of any team in the country while the Illini rank 311th, turning the ball over on 21.9% of their possessions. The Hawkeyes also rank 22nd with a free-throw percentage of 79.4 while the Illini are outside the Top 200 with a 69.7 FT%. 

With the Illini going 0-4 against the spread in their last four games against teams with a winning percentage above .600 and the Hawkeyes going 25-11-3 ATS in their previous 39 contests at home, back the faves. 

Prediction: Iowa -3 (-110)

The Hawkeyes are fifth in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency and second in scoring with 91 points per game. While the Illini will be one of the better defensive teams they have faced, the Hawkeyes managed to score 75 points against the slowest-paced team in the nation in the Virginia Cavaliers and also dropped 70 points on Purdue without their leading scorer. 

That said, there are still question marks about Iowa's defense, which is what sent them packing during the Round of 32 in March. Illinois had some offensive struggles earlier in the season while Cockburn served a suspension, but with the big man back in the lineup, they've been on fire from the field.

The Illini are averaging 87.3 ppg on 54.1% shooting over their last three games and have cashed the Over in four straight. With the Hawkeyes going 7-1 O/U in their last eight games at home, take the Over tonight. 

Prediction: Over 150.5 (-110)

Iowa has some bouncy forwards in Murray, his twin brother Kris, and senior transfer forward Filip Rebraca. But none of those players has anywhere near the length or strength of Cockburn, who is a beast down low.

Illinois ranks sixth in the country in rebounding rate and ranked third in that category last season. Cockburn has been the biggest reason for that, grabbing at least 10 boards in three of his last four games, including 15 rebounds in just 27 minutes against Rutgers last Friday.

With Iowa's fast tempo and the number of shots they take, there should be plenty of rebounding opportunities for Cockburn. Unless Cockburn gets into foul trouble, which has typically been his biggest weakness, he should be able to go Over 8.5 on his rebounds total tonight. 

Pick: Kofi Cockburn Over 8.5 rebounds (-105)

College basketball parlays

Did you know that if you parlayed our Illinois vs. Iowa picks, you could win $61.16 on a $10 bet?

Use our college basketball parlay calculator to create your own parlays and see their potential payouts.

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