Illinois vs Penn State Odds, Picks and Predictions: Fighting Illini Dominate Boards

It just so happens that Penn State's biggest weakness — rebounding — is among Illinois' biggest strengths. Our choice on the 7.5-point spread reflects just that, with analysis in our college basketball betting picks below.

Feb 21, 2024 • 12:29 ET • 4 min read
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Quincy Guerrier Illinois Fighting Illini Big Ten college basketball
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The Illinois Fighting Illini are in strong position in the Big Ten standings as we reach the season’s home stretch, three wins away from clinching a pass into the conference tournament quarterfinals. The Penn State Nittany Lions, meanwhile, are scrapping to evade playing in that tournament’s opening round.

If Penn State has any reason to hope for an upset tonight of No. 12 Illinois, it comes from home-court advantage, where the Lions have surprised Wisconsin and Iowa this season. Three of the Illini’s four conference losses have come on the road, including at Northwestern.

That is a slim hope, though, and the expectation tonight is for Illinois to continue on its track toward a Top-3 seed in March, an expectation that shows up in our free college basketball picks as we preview Illinois vs. Penn State on February 21, with tip set for 6:30 ET.

Illinois vs Penn State best odds

Illinois vs Penn State picks and predictions

The Penn State Nittany Lions' first season under Mike Rhoades has been a frustrating one, particularly of late. Just when it looked like the Nittany Lions had turned a corner with a three-game conference winning streak to reach 6-6 in Big Ten play, they lost their next three games.

Penn State was an underdog in all three of those, and two of them were on the road, but both those things had been true in the three-game winning streak, too.

A few trends tied together through this three-game losing streak. The Nittany Lions shot 32% from deep in their loss to Northwestern and 22% when falling to Nebraska. The Wildcats shot 38% from deep, superseded by Michigan State’s 40% three days later.

However, the greatest flaw has been a worry all season long: Penn State cannot rebound. It was out-rebounded in each of those three losses, by 24 total boards, including giving up 25 offensive rebounds while collecting just 14.

Let’s be clear, there were plenty of missed shots the Nittany Lions could have tried to corral.

Penn State finds its own misses 24.4% of the time in Big Ten competition, No. 12 in the conference. Worse yet, it allows opponents to find 33.5% of their misses, the worst offensive-rebounding rate allowed in the Big Ten.

The Illinois Fighting Illini are the wrong team to face when struggling on the glass like that. Only Purdue and Zach Edey fare better rebounding in the Big Ten.

The Illini rank No. 2 in offensive rebounding rate, pulling in 34.9% of their own misses, and No. 3 in offensive-rebounding rate allowed. Illinois should out-rebound Penn State by at least a dozen tonight, and it could create that gap entirely on the offensive glass.

That particular disparity provides enough logic in trusting the Illini tonight, raising Illinois’s floor to such a level that it should easily cover this spread.

My best bet: Illinois -7.5 (-102 at FanDuel)

Illinois vs Penn State same-game parlay

Illinois -7.5

Quincy Guerrier Over 6.5 rebounds

Qudus Wahab Under 7.5 rebounds

Tailing Guerrier and fading Wahab ties into the same logic as the best bet handicap. Illinois will rebound the ball plenty. Penn State will not.

Focusing only on Big Ten results, Guerrier pulls in more than a fifth of missed shots on defense when he is in the game. The Nittany Lions will miss plenty — No. 9 in the conference in 2-point shooting percentage at 49.9 — and Guerrier will collect them.

Wahab is Penn State’s best rebounder, but he will be outmanned tonight. Illinois can send waves at him, from Dain Dainja to Ty Rodgers to Guerrier, a savvy rebounder should always be countering Wahab.

Learn how to bet a same-game parlay with these helpful tips and strategies.

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Illinois vs Penn State spread and Over/Under analysis

The Illini opened as 6.5-point favorites on Tuesday afternoon, a lone book risking an early number. When the market opened more widely, Illinois was a 7.5-point favorite. Some books dabbled at -8, but -7.5 remained the consensus.

The total opened as high as 158 before ticking downward on Wednesday morning to 157 and even 156.5 at some books. The number seems lofty on the surface, but both these teams trend toward the Over, Illinois going Over its pregame totals in 17 of 25 games, and Penn State doing so in 16 of 26.

Furthermore, 14 of the last 16 Illini games cashed their Overs.

Illinois vs Penn State betting trend to know

The last five Illinois games have all gone Over their totals by an average of 18.6 points. Find more college basketball betting trends for Illinois vs. Penn State.

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Illinois vs Penn State game info

Location: Bryce Jordan Center, University Park, PA
Date: Wednesday, February 21, 2024
Tip-off: 6:30 p.m. ET

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