The Arizona Wildcats are set to face the Illinois Fighting Illini this weekend. Check out our college basketball odds series, which includes our Arizona Illinois prediction, odds, and pick.

The Arizona Wildcats might have made the best hire of the past college basketball offseason and coaching carousel. Tommy Lloyd had been Mark Few’s right-hand man at Gonzaga for roughly two decades. He learned at the feet of one of the best coaches in college basketball, but he lacked head coaching experience. Why not get a head coaching job at a WCC or Mountain West program before being handed the keys to a Cadillac program? The logic behind that question was clear, but it was true that Lloyd saw up-close how a big-time program operates. His extensive experience at Gonzaga was enough to convince Arizona to hire him.

The people who examine college basketball odds for a living, and who have studied how to arrive at an Arizona Illinois pick, can see that Tommy Lloyd has been a smash hit in his first month on the job in Tucson. Arizona is unbeaten. The Wildcats were No. 1 in the early-season NET rankings, one of the main metrics for evaluating college basketball teams. Arizona is playing with the pace and energy Tucson residents associate with the great Lute Olson teams of yesteryear. Lute, who recently died, would certainly love the way these Cats are playing if he had been able to get a look at this team. Arizona looks like a contender for the Pac-12 title with UCLA and USC. If you are thinking about an Arizona Illinois prediction, you have to respect the way the Wildcats have begun their season.

Illinois has endured a very bumpy ride this season, which was to be expected after the departure of Ayo Dosunmu, the electric star who has had a quality rookie NBA season with the Chicago Bulls. Filling the gaps left by Dosunmu’s departure has been a challenge for this Illini team, even though big man Kofi Cockburn has returned for another year.

When thinking about the Arizona Illinois odds, one needs to realize that Illinois lost to Cincinnati by 20 points earlier this season, and to a Marquette team which has subsequently been blown out by Wisconsin. Yes, Illinois has wins over Kansas State, Notre Dame, and at Iowa (that game against the Hawkeyes was earlier this week), so one can see signs of growth from this team, but it’s clear that the Illini are still figuring out who and what they are.

Here’s how the bookmakers have set the odds:

College Basketball odds: Arizona-Illinois Odds

Arizona: -1.5 (-110)

Illinois: +1.5 (-110)

Over: 152.5 (-105)

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Under: 152.5 (-115)

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Why Arizona Could Cover the Spread

The Wildcats look like the real deal. Tommy Lloyd is the early front-runner for NCAA Division I National Coach of the Year. If you are convinced by what Arizona has done on the court so far this season, there’s no reason to doubt the Wildcats against an Illinois team whose play can generously be described as uneven. Think about that larger reality when considering your Arizona Illinois prediction.

Why Illinois Could Cover the Spread

The Arizona resume is not that great. Arizona crushed Michigan in Las Vegas earlier this season, but Michigan hasn’t looked that good. Michigan was hammered by North Carolina, and no one would say UNC looks like an especially strong team. Arizona’s opponents have not risen to the challenge. Illinois will load up for this game and could certainly pounce on the Cats.

Final Arizona-Illinois Prediction & Pick

Arizona’s opponents might not be that great, but the Wildcats have blown them out. Tommy Lloyd has the look and feel of a coach who is going to do great things. Beating Illinois should not be that hard in the larger scheme of things.

Final Arizona-Illinois Pick: Arizona -1.5