The second round of the 2021 March Madness starts on Sunday, March 21, so here’s the best betting pick for the Midwest Region duel between the No. 8 Loyola Chicago Ramblers and the No. 1 Illinois Fighting Illini at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
These rivals have met on just two occasions recently, and Illinois was better in both encounters. According to PointsBet Sportsbook, the Fighting Illini are 7-point favorites to get a victory and progress to the Sweet 16 where they could meet the winner of the duel between Oregon State and Oklahoma State.
The Ramblers held off the Yellow Jackets in the opening round
The Loyola Chicago Ramblers successfully opened the NCAA Tournament with a 71-60 victory over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Senior guard Lucas Williamson had a game of the season as he led his team with 21 points, game-high six rebounds, and four assists. Braden Norris had 16 points and game-high eight dimes, while Keith Clemons and Cameron Krutwig combined for 22 points and eight rebounds.
The Ramblers appeared in the Big Dance for the seventh time in the school’s history. They won the tournament in their first appearance in 1963, while their previous was in 2018 when they reached the semi-finals and lost to Michigan.
This season, Loyola Chicago is the 166th team in college basketball when it comes to the offense as they average 71.5 points per game, while they are 2nd on defense with 55.7 points allowed per contest. They are 5th in field goal (50.1%), 43rd from beyond the arc (37.0%), and have the 3rd best defense against rebounds, allowing just 27.3 boards per game.
Krutwig is the star of this team as he averages 14.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.2 bpg, and 1.1 spg.
The Fighting Illini destroyed the Dragons in the first round
The Illinois Fighting Illini didn’t have any problems with the Drexel Dragons in the opening round and secured a comfortable 78-49 win. They shot 57.1% from the floor and limited the underdogs to only 30.6% from the field. Illinois dominated in both rebounds (40-32) and assists (19-10).
Sophomore center Kofi Cockburn led the Fighting Illini with 18 points, five rebounds, and two blocks. Ayo Dosunmu posted a double-double of 17 points and game-high 11 boards, along with game-high six assists and game-high three steals.
It’s the 31st NCAA Tournament appearance for Illinois, who is looking for the first Final Four spot since 2005 and Deron Williams’ era. They haven’t appeared in the Big Dance since 2013.
This year, Illinois has the 15th offense in the country that averages 81.3 points per game, while their defense is 126th as they allow 68.6 points per contest. The Fighting Illini are in the top 10 when it comes to the field goal (50.1%) and rebounds (40.4), while they are 25th in rebounds per game allowed (30.4).
Junior guard Dosunmu leads the team this season with 20.6 points per contest. He also averages 6.5 rpg, 5.4 apg, and 1.1 spg. Cockburn is the second star with 17.6 ppg, 9.5 rpg, and 1.3 bpg, while Trent Frazier averages 10.4 points per game.
- 1-4 ATS in their last five games when playing as the underdog
- 0-10 SU in their previous ten games against an opponent in the Big Ten conference
- 7-1 ATS in their last eight games
- 8-0 SU in their previous eight games
- 5-0 SU in their last five games against an opponent in the Missouri Valley conference
Illinois has a better team and more quality, and I have no doubt they will progress to the Sweet 16. This year could be theirs, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them in the Final Four. However, Loyola Chicago has one of the strongest defenses in the country and they will do everything in their power to stop Dosunmu and Cockburn. I am going with the Fighting Illini to win, but I am backing the Ramblers to cover the spread.
The Pick: Loyola Chicago Ramblers +7 (-110)
The top 20 offense meets the top 3 defense. That being said, this game is hard to predict in totals. Loyola Chicago will try to limit the favorites on offense as much as they can, but the total of 133.5 is not very high, and I am going with Over. Also, the total has gone Over in five of Illinois’ last seven games when playing as the favorite.
The Pick: Over 133.5 (-110)