- The Houston Cougars battle the Illinois Fighting Illini in the NCAA Tournament South Region
- Houston made the Final Four a year ago, while the Illini were upset in the 2nd round last year
- Read below for the Houston vs Illinois odds, analysis, and betting prediction
The 2nd round of the NCAA tournament is where you begin to separate the men from the boys, as teams come to the realization they are just a win away from a berth in the Sweet 16.
The Houston Cougars (30-5, 23-12 ATS) are no strangers to success, having advanced to the Final Four last year and winning their conference championship the last two seasons.
Illinois (23-9, 13-19 ATS) was a number 1 seed last year, but got stunned in the 2nd round by Loyola-Chicago and survived a huge scare against Chattanooga in their first round matchup on Friday.
Tip off is scheduled for 12:10pm ET between the Cougars and Illini on Sunday, March 20th from PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh. Let’s take a look at the odds between Houston and Illinois and break down what makes sense as the best bet.
Houston vs Illinois Odds
|Houston Cougars||-200||-4.5 (-110)||O 133.5 (-110)|
|Illinois Fighting Illini||+170||+4.5 (-110)||U 133.5 (-110)|
Odds as of March 19th at Caesars Sportsbook.
It might be a bit surprising since they entered the tournament as a 5 seed, but the Houston Cougars currently have the 12th best odds to win March Madness and have been made a 4.5 point favorite against 4th-seeded Illinois.
If you haven’t already, this is still a great time to sign up for March Madness betting bonuses, as there are tons of great bets to be made and money to be won with so many deals available just for signing up.
Houston Cougars Betting Analysis
This Houston Cougars team sure does look like the real deal. They mopped the floor with all three of their opponents in the American Athletic Conference Tournament winning by an average margin of 17 points.
They also won comfortably in the first round of the NCAA tournament with little threat from UAB.
— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) March 19, 2022
The Cougars basketball program is rarely discussed as one of the top programs in college basketball, but it’s time to take notice. Since 2017, only Gonzaga (151-15) has a better record than Houston (142-29).
They led the nation in field goal defense this year and the analytics fully support this team being a smart one to bet on in the Final Four odds at +600. They rank 3rd in the country in the KenPom overall efficiency rankings, ahead of two number 1 seeds, Arizona and Kansas.
Didn't have time to make this a blog post, but here's this year's best and worst value picks for the NCAA Tournament, based on KenPom numbers vs. ESPN picks. Most valuable, for the second straight March? The Houston Cougars. Least valuable? Arizona and Kansas. pic.twitter.com/WnKAmjXBJX
— Will Warren (@statsbywill) March 16, 2022
Although they don’t have a single starter left from last year’s squad, it’s easy to see a repeat appearance in the Final Four for this team. They had six players average double digits in scoring this season, although two from that group are out for the season, they have so many guys that can step up at any time.
Guard, Kyler Edwards, a Texas Tech transfer, led the way with 25 in their first round win over UAB. This squad seems to have the recipe for success to go deep into the madness once again.
Illinois Fighting Illini Betting Analysis
On the other hand, the Illini have come undone at the seams come tournament time. Last year, as a number 1-seed, they suffered a stunning 71-58 upset loss to their in-state rivals from Loyola-Chicago.
This year, as a 4-seed, they almost didn’t escape the first round, needing a couple go-ahead free throws from guard Alfonso Plummer with 12 seconds left to help them pull out a 54-53 win over 13th-seeded Chattanooga.
WHAT A FINISH!
Illinois (4) didn't have a lead until the final minute of the game, but they come up with some clutch defence to avoid the upset and eliminate Chattanooga (13) by one point, 54-53 🤯 pic.twitter.com/jo2LKSuMM2
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) March 19, 2022
Kofi Cockburn led the way once again for Illinois with 17 points, although Chattanooga’s strategy seemed to focus on stopping the Wooden Award odds contender, as they threw multiple defenders at him and sent the 7-footer to the line 10 times.
Cockburn finished 11th in Division I in scoring with 21.1 points per game and eighth in rebounds, grabbing 10.6 boards per game. Stop him and there is a more than probable chance you’ll be able to stop the Illini. Illinois suffered five of their seven losses in games where Cockburn failed to score 20 or more points this year.
Houston vs Illinois Pick
The momentum is definitely on Houston’s side in this one as Illinois suffered a loss in the Big Ten Quarterfinal before narrowly escaping against Chattanooga. Although they averaged 75.8 points per game on offense this season, they have failed to score at least 65 points in three of their last four games.
In addition, they are just 2-9 against the spread in their last 11 games and were just 13-19 ATS all season. The Cougars have covered the spread in eight of their last nine games with an average margin of victory of 15 points during that stretch. Their margin of victory over the course of the season was a whopping 16 points per game. Only three teams placed above them in that category.
🚨 SCHEDULE ALERT 🚨
— Houston Men's Hoops 🏀 🐾 (@UHCougarMBK) March 19, 2022
Not only do the Cougars check all the boxes to win and cover the spread in this one, it might be a good idea to include them for the long haul in your March Madness betting strategy for the rest of the NCAA tournament.
Pick: Houston -4.5 (-110)
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