Rutgers Scarlet Knights vs. Illinois Fighting Illini Prediction & Game Preview - 12/3/2021

by Chuck Sommers

Friday, Dec 03, 2021
Time: 7 p.m. ET
Venue: State Farm Center, Champaign, IL
Where to watch: ESPN2

Opening Odds at USA Sportsbooks

DraftKings: Illinois -8
Caesars: Illinois -7.5

Season record
Rutgers: 4-3
Illinois: 5-2

Al McMordie had himself quite the week on the college basketball circuit, going 14-5-0 in what was an eventful seven days in the college game. Catch Al’s and other plays available right now at the Shop Picks page, where you can find all of the Best Bets from our champion sports handicappers.

Rutgers - Illinois preview and analysis

Recent form
Rutgers: won 74-64 vs. Clemson on Tuesday
Illinois: won 82-72 vs. Notre Dame on Monday

With Big Ten play getting underway, we'll get a chance to see what the Illini are all about on Friday night.

Illinois is off to a 5-2 start with three straight wins, including games against Kansas State and Notre Dame. The Illini are coming off an impressive 10-point win against the Fighting Irish while getting a dominant 28-point, 8-rebound performance from star big man Kofi Cockburn (11 of 16 shooting).

Big things are expected from the Illini this season after going 16-4 in conference play a season ago and winning the Big Ten championship. The result was a second-round exit in the NCAA Tournament as a No. 1 seed.

Two losses to Marquette and Cincinnati were only a blip on that radar, but there's no denying that there aren't many teams that can stop a 7-foot menace at the low block.

Rutgers, meanwhile, is coming off an impressive home win over Clemson on Tuesday to end its three-game losing streak; each loss was by one possession, including a 3-point loss to UMass in the Scarlet Knights' last game.

Ron Harper Jr., yes the son of the former Dallas Mavericks point guard, had a game-high 23 points to go with nine rebounds in the victory. Harper shot 8 of 13 from the floor despite Rutgers shooting a combined 43.3 percent from the floor.

As is the case with the Big Ten, defense will normally rule the day here. Both teams give up less than 70 points a game, which is going to be vital for Illinois. The Illini have scored at least 71 points in all five wins and have been held under in each of their two losses.

In this kind of game, you want to pick the starpower.


Being at home to open conference play is a good start for Illinois. Cockburn is a Player of the Year-caliber center and a strong run by Brad Underwood's group will cement that. Take the favorite in a strong outing. Illinois by 15

Betting trends

Rutgers is 12-10 ATS in its last 22 road games.

Rutgers is 16-12 ATS off a home win in its last 28 instances.

Illinois is 26-17 ATS in its last 43 conference games dating back to the past three seasons.

Illinois is 10-10 ATS after scoring 80 points or more the previous game.

Projected starting lineup

PG: Geo Baker
SG: Paul Mulcahy
Ron Harper Jr.
Caleb McConnell
Cliff Omoruyi

PG: Andre Curbelo
SG: Trent Frazier
DaMonte Williams
Coleman Hawkins
Kofi Cockburn

Statistical leaders

Points: Ron Harper Jr. – 16.1
Rebounds: Ron Harper Jr. – 9.0
Assists: Paul Mulcahy – 4.1

Points: Kofi Cockburn – 26.8
Rebounds: Kofi Cockburn – 9.5
Assists: Andre Curbelo – 5.0

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Chuck Sommers

About the Author:

Chuck Sommers has camped outside of sportsbooks since he can remember, learning the tricks and nuances of the trade. He still has nightmares of betting $5,000 on the Raiders in the Tuck Rule game but has since turned that to 25 years of veteran handicapping greatness. You can find him mostly in the shadows at the Red Rock or Aliante casinos wondering if the over is cashing on any given Sunday.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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