Big Ten Basketball Odds, Preview: Tough Year To Miss Out On Betting On Illinois

Written By Joe Boozell on November 24, 2020 - Last Updated on November 25, 2020
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The 2020-21 college basketball season is set to kick off on Wednesday, despite dozens of programs that are currently unable to participate due to positive COVID-19 cases.

Nonetheless, games will be played. And if you’re an Illinois Fighting Illini fan, you have to be excited about the upcoming year.

Illinois is ranked No. 8 in the preseason AP Poll and checks in at No. 17 at KenPom. This should be its best team since it made the Final Four in 2005.

Unfortunately, you can’t bet on Illini games if you’re in the state. That’s a controversial aspect of the Illinois Gambling Act that passed in 2019.

Similarly, Northwestern football fans can’t bet on their undefeated Wildcats in Illinois. You can bet on Northwestern or Illinois games in surrounding states Indiana and Iowa, however.

At any rate, you can still wager on the rest of the Big Ten in the Land of Lincoln. Here are the preseason NCAAB odds to win the conference at DraftKings.

2020-21 Big Ten basketball odds

TeamDraftKings odds
Michigan State+360
Ohio State+1000
Minnesota +30000
Penn State+30000
Nebraska +50000

To those who are curious about where the Illini would stack up, they are in a similar tier to Wisconsin and Iowa in the AP Poll and KenPom.

Hawkeyes big man Luka Garza is the best returning player in the country, and he’s the main reason for the Iowa optimism. FanDuel has Wooden Award odds, and Garza is the early favorite at +300.

Garza averaged 23.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per game last season. If he can average something like 25 and 10 and Iowa lives up to its top-10 billing, that’s a solid Wooden Award resume.

The Hawkeyes went 20-11 last year and returned their four leading scorers, including Garza. They finished fifth in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency last year, per KenPom, and it’s easy to see them leading the nation in that category this season.

The defense, however, is problematic. This group finished 97th on that end last year, and the Hawkeyes aren’t exactly sprawling with athletes. They have to hope that continuity will give them a boost on that side of the floor.

KenPom isn’t as high on Iowa

Iowa has the shortest odds to win the Big Ten and has the highest AP Poll ranking in the league. But KenPom lists three teams ahead of the Hawkeyes in its preseason rankings.

Those are Wisconsin (7); Ohio State (10) and Michigan State (11). Iowa is 13th, Michigan is 15th and Illinois is 17th. That’s six of the top 17 teams out of the Big Ten, so it figures to be a fun year in the conference.

On paper, Iowa is the best team in the league. But there’s a ton of turnover in college basketball each year, so it’s often harder to project how certain teams will perform than others.

We know less about Ohio State and Michigan State than Iowa, Illinois or Wisconsin. But that doesn’t mean they’ll be inferior come March.

There may be value with the Badgers on the odds board, though. Wisconsin returns four of its top five scorers and won one more game than Iowa last year.

It’s also much better defensively than Iowa, at is finished 17th in adjusted defensive efficiency last year. In essence, these teams look pretty even heading into 2020-21, but Wisconsin doesn’t have as big of a name as Garza. Does that mean it has betting value?

Time will tell.

Michigan and Ohio State may also present some value, as both are 10/1 or higher at DraftKings. The Wolverines and Buckeyes typically outperform preseason expectations, and each has a nice blend of returning players and intriguing transfers.

Big Ten national championship odds

Here’s where DraftKings pits prominent Big Ten teams’ national title hopes. For reference, Villanova (+600) and Gonzaga (+700) are the only teams with shorter odds than Iowa. The Hawkeyes are priced the same as Baylor.

TeamDraftKings odds
Michigan State+1500
Ohio State+3000
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Joe Boozell

Joe Boozell has also been a college sports writer for since 2015. His work has also appeared in Bleacher Report, and Growing up, Boozell squared off against both Anthony Davis and Frank Kaminsky in the Chicagoland basketball scene ... you can imagine how that went.

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