This Friday matchup features a tale of two stories as the Drexel Dragons (10-6) go up against the Fighting Illini of Illinois (23-6). You can hear Illini fans across the country praying that their team doesn’t blow this one! It would be the second time in tournament history that a one-seed was knocked off by a sixteen seed in the round of 64. It’s doubtful that it will happen, but that’s what makes this tournament so exciting. Let’s continue our NCAA Odds series and make a Drexel-Illinois prediction and pick.
Here is how the sportsbooks have set the odds:
NCAA Odds: Drexel-Illinois Odds
Drexel Dragons +23 (-108)
Illinois Fighting Illini -23 (-112)
Over 143.5 Points (-11o)
Under 143.5 Points (-110)
Why Drexel Could Cover The Spread
The Drexel Dragons defeated Elon University in the Colonial Athletic Conference championship to earn a bid to this year’s tournament. This season has been an interesting one for the Dragons. After starting the year with a record of 6-6 SU and 8-4 ATS, the Dragons went on to receive a four-week break through the month of February. Drexel had high expectations going into 2021 and didn’t necessarily live up to those expectations early on. Coming off of their “vacation,” the Dragons dominated. They went 4-0 both SU and ATS in route to their conference title.
In what will be the schools first trip to the tournament since 1996, the Drexel Dragons are facing a large challenge to advance. They will lean on their star guard Camren Wynter to pull off an upset or at least cover this monstrous spread. Camren finished the year averaging 16.8 points per game and 5.3 assists per game. He and Dragon big man James Butler will need to step up in a huge way for their squad on Friday. What do the Dragons have going for them? They need to cover what is essentially a three-touchdown spread for bettors to cash in.
Why Illinois Could Cover The Spread
Where do we begin? The Big Ten champs have had a historic season leading into the Big Dance. Their victory against Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game not only solidified their conference crown but also undoubtedly solidified their tournament seeding. The Fighting Illini finished as a top-50 team in the nation in almost every statistical category. They’ve been cover machines of late as well. Over their last seven games, Illinois has covered in six with an average margin of victory over thirteen. Their recent stride and sustained success make this team a legitimate juggernaut coming in.
The Fighting Illini are led by their two-headed monster in Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn. These two have been lights out all year. The way that they’re able to pick each other up on off nights allows for this team to maintain offensive consistency, which has led them to become a top-20 offensive team in the nation. The Illini have averaged over 81 points per game in 2021 against Big 10 competition and should have absolutely no problem getting theirs against the Dragons. This is a David vs. Goliath type of matchup.
Final Drexel-Illinois Prediction & Pick
Three touchdowns is a gigantic spread in March Madness. The disparity in this matchup is more than clear, but 23 points have to raise an eyebrow. The spread is continuously climbing and I wouldn’t blame anyone for hopping on that train. I’m going to side with the total and take the over, though. I have faith in Illinois to score in bunches and will look for Drexel to push the pace to keep up. The Dragons averaged 71 points per game this season and have hit the over in eight of their last twelve. With Illinois scoring the way they do and hitting the over in six of their last nine, give me the points.
FINAL PICK: Over 143.5 (-110)