With one of the most prolific offenses in the nation, Kentucky finds itself back inside the AP Top 10. And despite a massive spread in tonight’s affair with visiting Illinois State, all signs point to a comfortable win and cover.
While their football team will hold the headlines in the afternoon, fans of the Kentucky Wildcats will shift focus to the hardwood on Friday night when they host the Illinois State Redbirds in their final game before SEC play begins.
Our college basketball odds have Kentucky as the overwhelming favorites and while the Redbirds are 8-4 on the season, this will be their biggest test by far. It’s the first Power 5 school they’ve faced all season, which makes their low offensive metrics look even worse.
Kentucky’s been off since defeating rival Louisville last Thursday by 19 points, and a three-game win streak has the program back inside the Top 10. The Wildcats have one of the most effective offenses in college basketball, and they’ll hope this game can get some of their players back on track ahead of a showdown with Florida.
Our college basketball picks for Illinois State vs. Kentucky break down the action and help you place your money in the best spot possible.
Illinois State vs Kentucky best odds
Illinois State vs Kentucky picks and predictions
Despite a strength of schedule ranked in the high 200s, the Illinois State Redbirds rank 300th in adjusted offensive efficiency. They struggle with turnovers, averaging one every five possessions, and are facing a Kentucky defense that forces them at a nearly equal rate.
Illinois State has a hot player in Darius Burford, and he’s been raising his 13.7 ppg average over the past few weeks, but otherwise, the Redbirds don’t have many consistent scoring threats. The Wildcats not only have outstanding balance across the floor, but Rob Dillingham and Reed Sheppard coming off the bench are both major threats to go off in any game.
One thing Illinois State does well is get to the foul line, but the height and athleticism Kentucky presents will make it difficult to maintain that. It’s also going to severely limit the ability to create in the halfcourt, which the Redbirds struggle with already.
Kentucky’s biggest weakness defensively has been guarding the 3-point line, but that probably won’t be an issue here. Illinois State is shooting just 27.7% from beyond the arc, despite taking two of every five shots from downtown. If the Redbirds can’t knock a few down, and Kentucky’s able to get out and run in transition, it’s going to be a very long day for the visitors.
Kentucky’s running and gunning, and there’s not much that can slow the offense down. The Wildcats can shoot teams out of the zone with Antonio Reeves and Sheppard, and they can also destroy teams in transition.
They’ve also been tested heavily by Kansas and UNC, and they’re doing a good job of putting lesser teams away. The teams they’ve struggled with are highly effective in the halfcourt, and Illinois State won’t present that problem. The Redbirds shoot less than 43% from the floor, and they only grab about 30% of their misses so second-chance points won’t be there.
Additionally, only two players have an effective FG% of 51 or higher for Illinois State. Compare that to Kentucky — which has four players with 60% EFG or above — and it’s lining up to be an easy win for the Wildcats.
Six of Kentucky’s 11 opponents this season have lost to the Wildcats by at least 20 points. This includes a Top 10 Miami program that fell by 22. Look for the Redbirds to join that list tonight.
My best bet: Kentucky -19.5 (-120 at FanDuel)
Illinois State vs Kentucky same-game parlay
Our same-game parlay at FanDuel combines two Kentucky player props with our best bet.
The two highest-usage players for the Wildcats are D.J. Wagner and Dillingham off the bench. Wagner was expected to be a star, but he’s struggled around the rim and has missed more layups than I can count.
However, the Wildcats are coming off a stretch where they’ve been working on conditioning and strength, as they do this time every year.
Combine that with an Illinois State defense that lacks the height that gives him issues, ranking 284th in block rate, and you’ve got a situation where he should be able to reach double-digits. He’s also going to get some easy baskets as the Wildcats force turnovers.
Dillingham leads the team in usage, and many fans want him starting at point guard over Wagner. Despite coming off the bench, his total for this game is 13.5 points, and he’s scored 12+ in each of his last three games.
He scored 17 in two of those, and those were the two games in which he had 10+ shot attempts. He’ll do so again here, and he’ll reach his point total.
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Illinois State vs Kentucky spread and Over/Under analysis
Covers Consensus is backing Kentucky to cover, with 73% of the picks taking the Wildcats minus the points. Kentucky has covered in seven of 11 games this season, including five of its last six, and has covered the last two times as a double-digit favorite.
Illinois State is also 5-1 ATS in its last five games but were favorites in all of them. The last time the Redbirds were an underdog, they lost by 25 to Wright State in a game they were getting three points. The Redbirds have lost two of their last three road games.
The total has gone up nearly two points since opening, and Kentucky’s the reason why. It seems like Vegas can’t set the total high enough as the Wildcats continue to go Over. At 149.5 points, it matches the lowest total in their last seven games, with the Over 5-2 over that span.
Illinois State has seen the Over hit in two straight, but the Under is 6-4 in its last 10 games. The offensive struggles of the Redbirds are a key reason why, as they’ve failed to top 70 points in four of their last seven.
Kentucky has scored 80+ points in nine of its last 10 games and has topped 90 points five times in its last eight.
Illinois State vs Kentucky betting trend to know
The Over is 23-10 in Kentucky’s last 33 games. Find more college basketball betting trends for Illinois State vs. Kentucky.
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Illinois State vs Kentucky game info
|Rupp Arena, Lexington, KY
|Friday, December 29, 2023
|7:00 p.m. ET
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