Illinois is a No. 1 seed in March Madness for the first time since 2005. The Fighting Illini will take on Drexel in their Round of 64 matchup.
As expected, Illinois is a massive favorite over the Dragons.
Illinois is fresh off a dominating Big Ten Tournament run, winning the event and disposing of Ohio State, Michigan and Rutgers along the way.
The Fighting Illini have a serious chance to win it all. But first, they’ll need to beat Drexel.
Let’s take a look at Illinois’ NCAA tournament odds and Final Four path, which could feature Loyola-Chicago.
Fighting Illini March Madness odds
Illinois is playing its best basketball of the season, and this is a great time of year to get hot.
The Fighting Illini have lost once since Jan. 16. They’ve beaten the likes of Michigan, Ohio State (twice), Wisconsin (twice) and Iowa (twice), Simply put, they are rolling.
It’s hard to find a weakness on this Illini team.
Ayo Dosunmu is one of the best players in college basketball. The junior guard is averaging 20.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game. He can do it all, and is arguably the best closer in the sport.
Center Kofi Cockburn is rapidly improving, and that has to be a scary thought for anyone in Illinois’ region.
Cockburn is averaging 17.6 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game this year. In the Big Ten Tournament, nobody had an answer for him.
That includes Iowa center Luka Garza, who could win the Wooden Award.
The Illini also have an excellent coach in Brad Underwood and a talented supporting cast in Trent Frazier, Adam Miller and the delightful Andre Curbelo.
This is easily Illinois’ best team since the 2005 squad featuring Deron Williams, Dee Brown and Luther Head. And the odds reflect it.
What we know about Drexel
Drexel, the No. 16 seed, is 12-7 on the season.
KenPom has Drexel ranked as the No. 146 team in the country. They are 95th in offense and 247th in defense.
The Dragons hadn’t made the tournament since 1996.
Illinois will likely breeze past Drexel, but its next game should present a tougher test.
And, potentially, a team Land of Lincoln hoops fans know quite well.
We could see Illinois vs. Loyola-Chicago matchup in Round of 32
Loyola-Chicago is a No. 8 seed in the Midwest Region, and the Ramblers will face Georgia Tech.
If the Illini and Ramblers win, we could see an all-Illinois matchup.
Though, of course, you can’t bet on Loyola-Chicago or Illinois…. in Illinois.
If you were unaware, betting on Illinois college teams while in the state is prohibited by state law.
So, in order to bet on the Illini, you would need to be in another state that offers legal sports betting. Indiana and Iowa are the two closest options.
That law will hopefully change by next March Madness. But for now, it’s our reality.
And considering that Illinois has two teams in the dance that may square off, it’s quite unfortunate.
Alas, enjoy the madness.