Penn State vs Illinois Picks and Predictions: Fighting Illini Set to Pin Down Nittany Lions

Penn State visits a tough Illinois team as the Big Ten season begins to wind down. See why we're taking the home team to cover in our Fighting Illini vs Nittany Lions picks and predictions.

Last Updated: Mar 3, 2022 12:40 PM ET Read Time: 4 min
Kofi Cockburn  Illinois Fighting Illini College Basketball
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

The Illinois Fighting Illini will welcome the Penn State Nittany Lions to Champaign, IL, for a Big Ten matchup in the final week of the season. Illinois is currently sitting 1.5 games out of first place in the Big Ten. 

Illinois won’t end up winning the Big Ten regular season title if Wisconsin takes care of business against Nebraska over the weekend. However, the Fighting Illini would love to finish out their season strong with two games left before the conference tournament.

On the other hand, Penn State has won three of its last five games, but suffered a smackdown at the hands of Nebraska at home on Sunday losing the contest 93-70. 

Will Illinois take care of business at home against the Nittany Lions? Here are our college basketball picks and predictions for the Big Ten matchup between the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Illinois Fighting Illini. 

Penn State vs Illinois odds

This odds widget represents the best odds available for each betting market from regulated sportsbooks.

The Illinois Fighting Illini opened as 12.5 point favorites and are currently still -12.5 on every platform. The total, however, opened at 134 and there’s currently some movement going a bit higher at 134.5 at select outlets.

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.

Penn State vs Illinois predictions

Predictions made on 3/03/2022 at 8:00 a.m. ET.
Click on each prediction to jump to the full analysis.

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Penn State vs Illinois game info

Location: State Farm Center, Champaign, IL
Date: Thursday, March 3, 2022
Tip-off: 7:00 p.m. ET

Penn State at Illinois betting preview


Penn State:  No injuries to report.
Illinois: Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk F (Out), RJ Melendez G (Out), Austin Hutcherson G (Out).

Find our latest NCAA basketball injury reports.

Betting trend to know

Nittany Lions are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 road games. Find more NCAA betting trends for Penn State vs. Illinois.

Penn State vs Illinois picks and predictions

Our side and total predictions are based upon our analysis of the line and total in this game. Our best bet is our favorite pick across all markets.

Spread analysis

The Penn State Nittany Lions are currently 12-14 on the season. With one more loss, the Nittany Lions will finish the regular season below .500, which is exactly what Penn State is. A below-average power-five team that hasn’t performed well this year.  

Penn State is shooting a 51.1% effective field goal percentage while hitting 34.7% of their shots beyond the arc and 50.3% from inside. However, turnovers can get high, at 19.1%, and offensive rebounding will more than likely be limited against a very good Illinois team on the glass. 

On top of that, Penn State rarely gets to the foul line, despite shooting nearly 73% from the line this season. 

If Illinois can be just a bit more committed on the defensive end, the Fighting Illini will contend for an NCAA Championship. Illinois is holding opponents to a 46% effective field goal percentage while limiting teams to 32.1% from deep and 45.1% from inside the arc. 

Illinois also keeps the opposing offense in check on the boards, allowing an offensive rebound rate of just 26% this season. What brings the Fighting Illini down is the lack of turnovers, as Illinois is only averaging 15.6%. Against Penn State, Illinois could see that number rise, however. 

On the offensive end of the ball, Illinois is in elite company. The Fighting Illini are shooting an effective field goal percentage of 53.9% while knocking down 36.9% from three and 52.8% from inside the arc. On the glass, Illinois earns 34.1% offensive rebounds and turnovers have been limited to 18%. 

Penn State has been terrific on the defensive glass this year, holding opponents to 24.5% offensive rebounds. However, the Nittany Lions haven’t been able to force turnovers, earning under 14% of turnovers per game. 

The Nittany Lions also haven’t defended the 3-point shot very well, allowing teams to shoot 35.5%. Inside, Penn State has had success, holding opponents to 45.3%. That being said, getting stops inside against Illinois will prove to be a big challenge.

Therefore, I’ll grab Illinois at -12.5 at home.

Prediction: Illinois -12.5 (-110)

Over/Under analysis

I’ve stated that Illinois needs to get better on the defensive end to be considered as a potential NCAA champion, but Penn State won’t make it easy on them. The Nittany Lions are still shooting at an above-average rate from everywhere on the field. 

If the Nittany Lions want to win this game, they’re going to have to go a little bit more up-tempo and catch Illinois off guard in transition. Penn State is one of the slowest teams in college basketball, using 20.2 seconds per possession. However, opponents against Illinois have used just 16.9 seconds per possession. I’m expecting Penn State to move a little bit quicker in today’s game. 

Plus, Illinois should have no problems scoring at least 70 points, as the Fighting Illini average 76.9 points per game. Give me the over.

Prediction: Over 134.5 (-110)

Best bet

Penn State was just embarrassed at home against the worst team in the Big Ten in Nebraska. The Nittany Lions either come out with a chip on their shoulder or they come out flat, just like they did against Nebraska. 

The defense wasn’t good and the offense couldn’t keep up. 

This year, the Nittany Lions haven’t defended the 3-point shot very well, allowing teams to shoot 35.5%. Inside, Penn State has had success, holding opponents to 45.3% but against Illinois, it’s still going to be a much bigger challenge. 

Per the analysis, it sounds like Penn State will struggle on defense yet again and won’t be able to keep up offensively against Illinois.

Pick: Illinois -12.5 (-110)

College basketball parlays

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