NCAA March Madness: Arkansas vs. Illinois betting preview, odds and predictions

By VSiN Staff  ( 

March 13, 2023 03:20 PM

NCAA March Madness: Arkansas Razorbacks vs. Illinois Fighting Illini betting preview, odds and predictions

In the 8 vs. 9 matchup in the West region of the 2023 NCAA tournament, the Arkansas Razorbacks face the Illinois Fighting Illini with a spot in the Round of 32 on the line. All tournament long, VSiN will be providing you with March Madness betting oddsin-depth team analysis and expert college basketball picks. Make us your one-stop shop for all of your betting needs. 

MORE: Check out the public betting splits for every college basketball game on the VSiN betting splits page

How to watch Arkansas vs. Illinois

When: Thursday, 4:30 p.m. ET

Where: Des Moines, Iowa

Watch: TBS

Odds for Arkansas vs. Illinois

Spread: Arkansas -3

Total: 144.5 

(Odds accurate as of Sunday, March 12th at 11:00 p.m. ET)

Real-time betting splits at DraftKings Sportsbook

West Region No. 8 Seed Arkansas Razorbacks

Arkansas has the firepower you need to make a run in the NCAA Tournament, with potential NBA lottery picks Nick Smith Jr. and Anthony Black being extremely tough for opposing guards to cover. Smith is a tremendous transition player that can score from everywhere, while Black puts a lot of pressure on defenses with his ability to get to the rim and make plays for himself or teammates. If somebody can step up and give Arkansas some solid minutes in the paint, the sky's the limit for this program. We didn’t even mention Ricky Council IV, who is the team’s leading scorer. Arkansas is also a top-20 team on the defensive end, which is always nice in March.

West Region No. 9 Seed Illinois Fighting Illini

There aren’t many teams that can match Illinois when it comes to talent on the wing. Terrence Shannon Jr., who transferred over from Texas Tech, has struggled with his jumper this season, but he’s a tremendous player that impacts the game in a number of different ways. Illinois also has two big forwards that can shoot in Matthew Mayer and Coleman Hawkins. Hawkins’ shooting numbers are abysmal this year, but we’ve seen him light it up before. It shouldn’t surprise anybody if he gets hot during a tournament run. Illinois does, however, need to clean things up a bit. Inconsistency was a theme for the Illini this season, so Brad Underwood has his work cut out for him here.

Arkansas vs. Illinois matchup analysis

Arkansas is a dangerous No. 8 seed if the Razorbacks can get past Illinois and match up with Kansas in the second round. The Razorbacks underwhelmed in the nine games with Nick Smith, as they went 3-6, but Smith scored at least 12 points in each of the last six games and had three games with 24 or more points.

One of the problems with Arkansas this season is that the Razorbacks have strung together a lot of their bad games. They lost five of six to open SEC play and then five of seven at the end of the regular season. If they could find any measure of consistency, they’d be one of the best teams in college basketball. Even with a pedestrian 8-10 conference record and a 20-13 mark overall, both Ken Pomeroy and Bart Torvik have Arkansas as a top-20 team.

That is not a good sign for Illinois, who was 18-1 in Quadrant II or lower games, but 2-11 in Quad I action. Early-season wins over UCLA and Texas feel like triumphs from yesteryear with what we’ve seen of late. Illinois is just 4-6 over the last 10 games, and Kofi Cockburn is not walking through that door.

The Illini are a top-20 team in both 2P% offense and defense, but rank among the worst 3P% teams in the nation at 30.9%. Arkansas struggles badly to shoot 3s as well (31.7%), but the Razorbacks only take one on 28.2% of their shot attempts. Illinois takes one nearly 42% of the time. Both teams finish well at the rim and play an up-tempo brand of basketball, so we could see deuces wild throughout this one.

The X-factor in this game could be the coaches. Eric Musselman has taken Arkansas to back-to-back Elite Eights and took Nevada to the Sweet 16 in 2018. Brad Underwood hasn’t gotten a team past the first weekend, including Illinois as a No. 1 seed in 2021.

MORE: College basketball best bets from VSiN hosts and analysts

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