TOM STRYKER’S FREE BASKETBALL SELECTION THURSDAY, MARCH 16TH
#759 ILLINOIS (+1′) over Arkansas at 4:30 PM EST
The Fighting Illini are locked into a nearly perfect 26-1 ATS technical situation and, off back-to-back straight up losses to the Nittany Lions and Boilermakers by a combined eight points, head coach Brad Underwood and his boys will pull off the minor upset. Arkansas stumbles into this NCAA Tournament game off a six-point loss to Texas A&M and, on a woeful 1-4 SU and 2-3 ATS run, the Razorbacks just aren’t playing good basketball at the moment.
This is actually a strong wagering spot for Illinois. Since 1991, Big 10 teams in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament that take the court without confidence off a straight up loss own a respectable 79-52-4 ATS record. If our “play on” side is priced as an underdog, this situation improves to a healthy 22-9-1 ATS and is quietly on a nearly perfect 11-1 ATS run dating back to the 2015 Big Dance tourney. Equally impressive, since 2016, teams in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament that take the court without momentum off two or more straight up losses hold a stunning 16-6 SU and 17-5 ATS mark including an eye-popping 9-2 SU and 11-0 ATS tally provided they are priced as an underdog or a favorite of -1.5 or less.
Considering Arkansas has been to the Elite Eight the past two seasons, there is no way the Razorbacks won’t get the respect they deserve. Fortunately, for us, this is not the best wagering situation for head coach Eric Musselman and his crew. Historically speaking, the Pigs have struggled in this series posting a rough 0-4 SU and 2-2 ATS mark in four battles since the 2001 season. Even worse, in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament, SEC teams that are matched up against an opponent that enters without confidence off a straight up loss hold a soft 25-32 SU and 23-34 ATS record. If our “play against” side carries a seed at No. 8 or higher, this situation falls to a woeful 17-26 SU and 16-27 ATS including a miserable 13-23 SU and 12-24 ATS provided they are priced as an underdog or a favorite of -4.5 or less. That spells trouble for the Razorbacks.
Over the last four seasons, the Fighting Illini are the Big 10’s winning team with a solid 55-25 SU record and they will prove they are the conference’s best with an upset win here. Take Illinois. Thanks and best of luck, Tom.
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