Notre Dame and Illinois are participating in the annual Big Ten/ACC challenge, with Illinois representing the Big Ten and Notre Dame representing the ACC. And while these two schools are a total mismatch on the football field, they should combine for a competitive contest on the basketball court. And with both teams having up and down starts to their season, this Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Illinois Fighting Illini contest could truly go either way when all is said and done.
Illinois is a top-25 team at this point in time, and is looking to compete for a spot in the Final Four after falling just short of that mark a season ago. And while Notre Dame is unranked, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t a threat to the Illini on the road. Both of these teams are well-coached and will need to play some of their best basketball if they are going to escape this game with a win.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish – Looking For First Big Win
Notre Dame is off to a 3-2 start this season, going 2-2 against Division I competition through the first two weeks of their season. They have beaten Cal State Northridge, High Point and Chaminade so far this season, while losing to St. Mary’s and Texas A&M. And while their two losses have come by a combined nine points, it is worth noting that the Fighting Irish have failed to close the two games they have played against quality competition.
The three-point shooting of the Irish has been a concern early this year, as they struggled mightily to make three-point shots against Texas A&M in their last outing. Notre Dame made 23% of their threes against the Aggies, and can’t afford to shoot that poorly again when they face the Fighting Illini. Cutting down on their turnovers would also be a huge plus, as the Irish turned the ball over 18 times in their last game.
Expected Line-Up: Prentiss Hubb, Dane Goodwin, Cormac Ryan, Paul Atkinson Jr., Nate Laszewski
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Illinois Fighting Illini – Possibly Overranked
The Illinois Fighting Illini are off to a 4-0 start this season, winning all three of their home games early in the year. But like Notre Dame, the Illini have had their share of trouble against power conference opponents, fattening up against the weaker portions of their schedule. While they did pick up a win over Kansas State, Illinois has lost to Marquette and Cincinnati already this year while their only other wins came against Rio Grande Valley, Jackson State and Arkansas State.
For the Illini to get a win here, they will need to do more to offensively against quality competition. They were held under 70 points against both Cincinnati and Marquette, leading to their only two losses of the season. Another lackluster performance on that side of the floor could negate the efforts of a team that is playing well defensively, allowing just under 65 points per game on the season to this point.
Expected Line-Up: Damonte Williams, Alfonso Plummer, Austin Hutcherson, Kofi Cockburn, Coleman Hawkins
Expert Pick #1 – Notre Dame +6.5 @ -110
The first bet to place on this game is Notre Dame +6.5 at -110 odds. Both of these teams have had clear issues contending with other high-quality college basketball teams, but that should work in the favor of the Fighting Irish in this game. Getting multiple possessions of points with them is a better play than trusting an Illinois team that hasn’t looked convincing yet this season to win convincingly.
Expert Pick #2 – Under 141.5 @ -110
Our next tip for this game is to bet on the Under 141.5 at -110 odds. Neither team has been able to put it together offensively against a power conference opponent just yet, and that shouldn’t happen here either. Both teams allow under 65 points per game, and should keep this game comfortably under the total as they face defenses better than what they have seen for much of the non-conference campaign.
Expert Pick #3 – Notre Dame to Win @ +220
The final bet to place on this matchup is for Notre Dame to win on the moneyline at +220 odds. Notre Dame certainly has the grit to get through a game like this, which they showed in a losing effort against the St. Mary’s Gaels recently. This team has plenty of fight, and is worth taking a flyer on against an Illinois team that should slide down the rankings this season instead of climbing them.
While there isn’t a lot to like about the way these two teams have played this season, it should be a good game between Notre Dame and Cincinnati. There seems to be some value in the underdog here, and that is the best way to play this Big Ten/ACC challenge contest.