Rutgers vs Illinois Picks and Predictions: Knights in Shining Armor

The Fighting Illini are the more polished scoring team, but the Scarlet Knights do the little things that help teams compete. Find out if it's enough to cover the spread tonight as we break down our Rutgers vs. Illinois college basketball picks.

Last Updated: Dec 3, 2021 9:48 AM ET Read Time: 4 min
Ron Harper Jr. Rutgers Scarlet Knights college basketball
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

Conference play is finally here. We’ve got a great one to start the night between the Rutgers Scarlet Knights and the Illinois Fighting Illini.

The Scarlet Knights went on a three-game losing streak in late November and lost one of their key members in Geo Baker to a hamstring injury. But in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, Rutgers forgot about it all and ended up putting away Clemson, at home, 74-64. 

That win will give the Scarlet Knights confidence going into this game against Illinois, who is 3-1 since Kofi Cockburn’s return.

Here are our college basketball picks and predictions for Rutgers vs Illinois on Friday, December 3. 

Rutgers vs Illinois odds

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

Illinois opened as a 7.5-point favorite and has been bet up to -8 at most outlets. The total has also increased from 134 at open to 134.5. However, there are sites carrying a 133.5. So, make sure to line-shop for the best odds. 

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.

Rutgers vs Illinois predictions

Predictions made on 11/3/2021 at 9:00 a.m. ET.
Click on each prediction to jump to the full analysis.

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Rutgers vs Illinois game info

Location: State Farm Center, Champaign, IL
Date: Friday, December 3, 2021
Tip-off: 7:00 p.m. ET
TV: ESPN2

Rutgers at Illinois betting preview

Injuries

Rutgers: Geo Baker G (Questionable)
Illinois: Andre Curbelo G (Out), Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk F (Questionable)

Find our latest NCAA basketball injury reports.

Betting trend to know

Fighting Illini are 0-4 ATS in their last four games as a favorite of 7.0-12.5. Find more NCAA betting trends for Rutgers vs. Illinois.

Rutgers vs Illinois 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.

Currently, it’s unknown whether or not Geo Baker will be able to start for Rutgers in tonight’s game. I’m sure he’s trying extremely hard to prepare for this one and wants to play, especially knowing it’s against Illinois in the first conference game. 

But hamstring injuries are painful, and it could keep him out for a while. And to be completely honest, Rutgers looks so much better offensively without Baker. 

On the season, Rutgers has shot an effective field goal percentage of just 44.7%. They’ve also hit just 26% of three-pointers on the season. Foul shooting has always been an issue for Rutgers, but the Scarlet Knights have been able to limit turnovers this season. 

Defensively, the Scarlet Knights are allowing a 46.9 eFG% and have shut teams down inside the paint, allowing just 43.4% from the opposition inside the arc. 

On the road, Rutgers will really need to limit second-chance opportunities. The Scarlet Knights have done this all season long and have held teams to just 22.8% on the offensive glass. Illinois, on the other hand, has grabbed nearly 40% of offensive rebounds. Rutgers can truly stay in this game if they slow the pace down and limit second chances. 

The Fighting Illini are turning the ball over 23.4% of the time, which is 322nd in the nation. That’s another area Rutgers will need to capitalize on if it wants a chance at winning this game. Neither team is great at the foul line, but this game is a bit more even than some want to admit. I’ll take Rutgers at +8 here. 

Illinois doesn’t have a go-to guy on offense other than Kofi Cockburn, and if he gets into foul trouble early, then what? With Rutgers always aggressive inside, there’s a good chance Cockburn could sit for a longer period of time. 

Prediction: Rutgers +8 (-110)

At this point, I think Rutgers learned its lesson. Against UMass, the offense was flying and scoring at an increasingly high rate. However, the defense lacked because of it. 

Look for Rutgers to slow this game down. Neither team should dominate the offensive glass, and if Rutgers can earn a takeaway once every four possessions, the Under looks like the play.

Prediction: Under 134 (-110)

I’ll stick with Rutgers at +8. A slower tempo game has me on the dog here. Illinois will more than likely shoot better than Rutgers, but if the Scarlet Knights can do the little things better, they’ll have a shot at this. 

Forcing turnovers, grabbing loose balls and getting to the line more often will give Rutgers the easy opportunities it needs to offset Illinois’ superior shooting.

That’s how I see it. Give me Rutgers +8.  

Pick: Rutgers +8 (-110)

College basketball parlays

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