Live From Illinois’ First March Madness Game You Can’t Bet On

Written By Joe Boozell on March 19, 2021

Illinois is a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005, and its quest for a national title begins on Friday.

The Illini will take on 16-seed Drexel at 12:15 p.m. CST. Illinois is a consensus 22.5-point favorite, but of course, you can’t legally bet on the Illini if you’re within state lines.

The same goes for Loyola-Chicago, which tips off at 3 p.m. CST. The Ramblers will take on Georgia Tech, and if they win, they likely have a date with the Illini in the Round of 32.

Illinois is fresh off a Big Ten Tournament championship, and is a popular pick to win it all. You’ll find live March Madness odds here.

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We’re giving you live updates from the Illinois-Drexel Round of 64 game below. Follow along:

Illinois vs. Drexel live betting updates

FINAL: Illinois 78, Drexel 49

2:11 p.m.: Illini and under tickets cash. Illinois will move onto the Round of 32, where it will face the winner of Loyola-Chicago and Georgia Tech.

Illinois up 33 at last media timeout

2:02 p.m.: Illinois (-22.5) bettors have to be feeling great – and shout out to Brad Underwood for keeping the starters in this late in a blowout.

Illinois outscoring Drexel 50-10 in the paint

1:54 p.m.: Just a physically dominant performance. Illinois still leads by 29, live spread is 30.5.

Illini lead by 29

1:47 p.m.: Drexel starting to hit some shots – the question is whether Brad Underwood will empty his bench, which could put the spread at risk.

Illinois is still a 31.5-point favorite on the live line.

Kofi Cockburn dominating

1:38: p.m.: Well said.

1:33 p.m.: Kofi is just too much for the undersized Dragons, imposing his will early in the second half. Illini lead by 27 as the live line has shot up to 31 at DraftKings.

Second half is underway

1:25 p.m.: Illinois and Drexel are back and have traded buckets in the opening seconds. Illini need to win this half by five to cover.

HALFTIME: Illinois 39, Drexel 21

1:02 p.m.: Sluggish start for the Illini, but snapped out of it in a big way at the end of the half. Kofi Cockburn and Ayo Dosunmu each have eight points.

Illinois is on track to cover the spread, as it’s currently -27.5 at DraftKings.

Illini on a run

12:54 p.m.: Blink, and you may have missed a quick 8-0 run for Illinois. Now up to a 24.5-point favorite on the live line.

Drexel hanging around

12:50 p.m.: Dragons are shooting 24% from the floor, and are within single digits. Illinois is a 20.5-point favorite on the DraftKings live line.

What the analytics sites were saying before the game:

Illinois up 17-11 at U8 timeout

12:43 p.m.: Down to a 20.5-point live favorite, as Ayo Dosunmu has yet to score. Not a great start for the Illini, but still in control of the game.

Illini a live 21.5-point favorite

12:33 p.m.: Odds via DraftKings. Down a point from close, as Illinois leads 13-8. Trent Frazier with seven early points.

Illinois off to a sluggish start

12:26 p.m.: Only up 9-8 at the U16 timeout, Drexel certainly not looking scared. Too early for IL bettors to panic, but would certainly prefer a better start.

We are underway

12:15 p.m.: The road to the title game starts now. Illinois closed as a 22.5-point favorite.

12:09 pm: Something we all saw coming: Some bettors not realizing they can’t bet on Illinois in Illinois until this moment. Hopefully next year!

And we should point out, this is due to Illinois law, not the sportsbooks.

11:45 am: Thirty minutes until tipoff. The scene at Farmers Coliseum:

10:41 am: About an hour-and-a-half from tipoff, Illini fans (and bettors!) can get hyped with this video:

Bettors loving Illini at DraftKings

9:19: At DraftKings Sportsbook, 69% of bets are on Illinois, while 72% of the money is on the blue and orange.

The Illinois spread is actually the lowest of any 1-seed.

Illini a popular bet at FanDuel

9:08: At FanDuel Sportsbook, 63% of the bets are on Illinois, while a whopping 78% of the money is on the Illini.

Photo by Michael Conroy / AP
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Joe Boozell

Joe Boozell has also been a college sports writer for NCAA.com since 2015. His work has also appeared in Bleacher Report, FoxSports.com and NBA.com. 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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