The Jimmy V Classic tips off on Tuesday with some marquee games. The Illinois Fighting Illini and the Florida Atlantic Owls face off in the early game.
Illinois had a massive road win to start Big Ten play at Rutgers on Saturday. The Illini, once again, hauled in over 50 rebounds. They also shot well from deep, which makes this team particularly interesting.
Meanwhile, FAU is a top dog after making the Final Four last season. The Owls have top-70 KenPom wins over Butler, Texas A&M, Virginia Tech and Liberty.
That said, on a neutral floor, these teams are even. Here’s FAU vs. Illinois odds and a pick.
FAU is good team, but it has some weaknesses to clean up against strong competition. The Owls are allowing opponents to shoot 32% from deep, which ranks 147th nationally. They’re holding opponents to 45.5% shooting from inside the arc (63rd), but that differs immensely from their 14th-overall KenPom rating.
Illinois isn’t the best offense, but FAU has some glaring holes. Bear in mind, Illinois shot 9-for-21 from outside against Rutgers, which has a better defense than FAU.
The Owls do hold a steady advantage at the free-throw line. Illinois ranks 320th in free-throw attempt rate and is shooting just 57.8%. FAU ranks 164th in free-throw attempt rate, so the Owls don’t get to the line consistently, but when they do, they shoot above 70%.
Adding on, Illinois has improved dramatically by not fouling. The Illini rank 15th in free-throw attempt rate defensively, cutting into a would-be edge for the Owls.
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Illinois has pulled in 50 or more rebounds in its past four victories. This team can crash the glass at every position, which is why it ranks 33rd in offensive rebounding and 17th defensively. FAU ranks 87th and 191st, respectively.
That’s a massive gap. Unless the seven-footer — Vladislav Goldin — hauls in boards, Johnell Davis is the only other play who can rebound often. Illinois should carry another edge here.
Illinois’ defense is the story in this one. The Illini rank second in Rim-and-3 Rate, per ShotQuality. Offensively, FAU ranks 10th, so Illinois is a good matchup defensively.
In addition, Illinois ranks 40th in Open 3 Rate, while FAU ranks 40th offensively.
Finally, the Illini rank 10th in 3-point attempt rate defensively, while the Owls are shooting 38.4% from outside. Since Illinois is holding opponents to the lowest 2-point percentage in the sport (36.3%), FAU has a test inside as well.
Florida Atlantic vs. Illinois
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This is a true offense versus defense battle, but Illinois showed how dangerous it can be if it hits 3s.
Since Illinois rarely allows opponents to take 3s and is so strong at guarding the interior, the Illini have a major edge in multiple facets of the game.
Illinois should also own the glass.
Take Illinois to -1.5.
Pick: Illinois +1.5 (Play to -1.5)
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