Illinois vs. UConn March Madness Preview and Prediction

In the No. 3 vs. No. 1 matchup in the NCAA Tournament East Region, the Illinois Fighting Illini face the Connecticut Huskies in Elite Eight action.

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How to Watch Illinois vs. UConn

When: 6:09 pm ET on Saturday, March 30th

Where: TD Garden in Boston, MA

Watch: TBS

Odds for Illinois vs. UConn

(odds current at time of publish)

Spread: UConn -8.5

Total: 155

DraftKings Betting Splits | Live College Basketball Odds | Illinois vs. UConn Matchup

East Region No. 3 Illinois Fighting Illini

Illinois felt a little underappreciated heading into March Madness, which might have something to do with the team losing both of its high-profile games against Purdue. But the Fighting Illini have some serious talent, with Terrence Shannon Jr., Marcus Domask and Coleman Hawkins being one of the better trios in the nation — and Dain Dainja emerging as a monster. Illinois is just a wild combination of efficient and explosive offensively. And the team can score in a number of different ways, which is never bad when the game slows down. Their defense left a lot to be desired throughout the season, but they’ve played well in spurts here.

East Region No. 1 UConn Huskies

Last year’s championship-winning UConn team finished the season third in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency and ninth in adjusted defensive efficiency. This year’s Huskies team has a nearly identical statistical profile. That gives UConn legitimate hope that it can be the first team to go back-to-back since Florida did it in 2006 and 2007. The Huskies are as well coached as any team in the nation, with Dan Hurley being a master motivator and an Xs-and-Os tactician. UConn also has two potential lottery picks in Stephon Castle and 7-foot-2 big man Donovan Clingan. On top of that, the Huskies have experienced players like Tristen Newton, Cam Spencer and Alex Karaban.

Illinois vs. UConn Preview & Prediction

The task at hand is quite difficult for the Illinois Fighting Illini in this one. The UConn Huskies seem unbeatable in the NCAA Tournament. They entered the Sweet 16 game against San Diego State having won eight straight games in the Big Dance by at least 13 points. They kept that streak intact by thumping the Aztecs by 30.

It could be a good sign for the Illini that they beat Iowa State 72-69 in a game where they shot just 15-of-29 at the free throw line. Leaving points out there like that against the Huskies will signal the end of their NCAA Tournament run, but Brad Underwood’s bunch has long been seen as a dangerous March Madness squad and they’ve beaten Morehead State, Duquesne, and Iowa State to make the Elite Eight for the first time since 2005. That team was a No. 1 seed and lost to North Carolina in the title game.

Despite their standing as the reigning National Champs, UConn has been a team of chipped shoulders in the tournament. They were placed in a very strong East Region and head coach Dan Hurley also voiced his displeasure with turning around and playing on Thursday in the Sweet 16. Maybe it’s all to keep his team motivated or maybe he’s just a cranky guy like that, but UConn just keeps blowing opponents out.

This has been going on for a while. Using Bart Torvik’s Game Scores, UConn has played one game under 88 since Christmas and all three games in the NCAA Tournament have been a perfect score of 100. The game below was a game in which Creighton shot 14-of-28 from 3 and UConn was 3-of-16.

It feels right now like it will take that kind of outlier to topple the Huskies. Illinois has played extremely well in the tourney, but they were one field goal better than Iowa State and were on their heels most of the second half.

Estimated Score: UConn 81, Illinois 73

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