NCAA Tournament Betting: Can Illinois Cover the Spread Against Morehead State?

Aidan Cotter
Aidan CotterAidanCotterFD
NCAA Tournament Betting: Can Illinois Cover the Spread Against Morehead State?

Very few things on the sports calendar can match the excitement and unpredictability of the NCAA Tournament. So why not add betting to the mix via the college basketball odds at FanDuel Sportsbook?

The 2024 edition of the big dance has arrived, and here at FanDuel Research, we'll have you covered with a betting guide for each game.

All college basketball odds come from FanDuel Sportsbook, and lines may change after this article is published.

NCAA Tournament Betting Picks

Morehead State vs. Illinois Betting Odds

Date and Time: Thursday, March 21st at 3:10 p.m. ET

Spread: Illinois -11.5 (-120)

Total: 148.5


  • Morehead State: +570
  • Illinois: -850

Morehead State vs. Illinois Statistical Breakdown

Advanced stats from KenPom, Bart Torvik and numberFire.

Morehead State

  • numberFire Ranking: 121st
  • Bart Torvik Ranking: 133rd
  • KenPom Ranking: 110th
    • Adjusted Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 120th
    • Adjusted Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 124th
    • Adjusted Tempo Ranking: 335th


  • numberFire Ranking: 9th
  • Bart Torvik Ranking: 12th
  • KenPom Ranking: 10th
    • Adjusted Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 93rd
    • Adjusted Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 3rd
    • Adjusted Tempo Ranking: 56th

Morehead State vs. Illinois Best Bet

Illinois 11.5 (-120)

Illinois -- fresh off a Big Ten Tournament title -- is set up well to cover the spread in their first-round matchup with Morehead State, currently set at -11.5 on FanDuel Sportsbook.

The Illini feature one of the most explosive offenses in the country. Their 84.4 points per game ranks eighth nationally, and they're third in adjusted offensive efficiency. They scored 98 in the Big Ten semifinals against Nebraska and then 93 in the championship versus Wisconsin -- both of whom are top-50 in adjusted defense.

Morehead State is down 120th in adjusted defense -- an encouraging standing for Illinois' chances of covering. The Illini have faced 14 teams outside the top 100 in adjusted defense. They're 14-0 in such matchups, averaging 88.1 points per game with a 19.9-point average margin of victory.

Somehow, this will be the third top-five offense Morehead State has faced this season. The Eagles gave up 105 points to Alabama (second in adjusted offense) and 87 to Purdue (fourth). They lost those games by 32 and 30, failing to keep up with those high-octane attacks.

Illinois should have similar success against Morehead State, and I won't be surprised to see them go over their 80.5 team total prop.

I'll certainly be eyeing that team total, but I can buy into Illinois' defense enough to take them to cover the spread here. While the Illini don't have an elite defense, they can hold their own, ranking 55th in effective field goal percentage allowed. Though they don't force turnovers, the Big Ten champs are strong on the glass and bait opponents into taking mid-range jumpers.

Per Bart Torvik, opponents get 38.1% of their shots from deep twos, the second-highest rate among tournament teams. They allow the second-lowest three-point rate in the tournament -- something that will come in handy against Morehead State. The Eagles get 45.1% of their looks from three, the fifth-highest among tourney teams.

Morehead State is 335th in KenPom's adjusted tempo, so I'm wary to get on either side of the total. Still, Illinois should be able to dictate the pace against the Eagles, so I'm comfortable laying the 11.5 at -120 odds.

Morehead State vs. Illinois Prop Bet

Coleman Hawkins Over 17.5 Points + Rebounds (-111)

Morehead State's snail-like pace is a tad concerning for Illinois' points props, but there's a lot to like with Coleman Hawkins Over 17.5 Points + Rebounds at -111 odds.

Hawkins is Illinois' de facto big man, though he's far from a back-to-the-basket post man. The 6'10" senior does a bit of everything for the Illini. He ranked third on the team with 31.7 minutes per game during the regular season, chipping in 12.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. A 37% shooter from beyond the arc, Hawkins' ability to stretch the floor is a major part of Illini offense. Simply meeting his season averages would clear this line.

Though Hawkins has been held under 10 points in four straight games, he still flirted with 18 combined points and rebounds thanks to an uptick in rebounding. The stretch-big has pulled down 7 rebounds in five of his last six games, making Coleman Hawkins Over 6.5 Rebounds (-132) an intriguing prop on its own.

Still, I'm bullish Hawkins gets back on the scoreboard against Morehead State considering he averaged 13.4 points and 6.4 rebounds against teams outside the AP Top 25, compared to just 10.0 points and 5.0 rebounds against top-25 teams. After surviving the gauntlet that is the Big Ten tournament, Hawkins has a good chance to bounce back against the mid-major Eagles.

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The above author is a FanDuel employee and is not eligible to compete in public daily fantasy contests or place sports betting wagers on FanDuel. The advice provided by the author does not necessarily represent the views of FanDuel. Taking the author's advice will not guarantee a successful outcome. You should use your own judgment when participating in daily fantasy contests or placing sports wagers.