Illinois Fighting Illini (24-7) vs. Chattanooga Mocs (27-7)
March 18, 2022 6:50 pm EDT
The Line: Illinois Fighting Illini -7.5 / Chattanooga Mocs +7.5; Over/Under: +135.5
(Get latest betting odds)
The Illinois Fighting Illini and Chattanooga Mocs clash in a college basketball NCAA tournament first round matchup from the PPG Paints Arena on Friday night.
The Chattanooga Mocs come into the NCAA tournament representing the SoCon as the #13 seed, finishing the year with an overall record of 27-7, including 14-4 in conference play, winning the SoCon regular season title and taking down the Citadel, Wofford and Furman on their way to the conference championship trophy. Malachi Smith leads the Mocs in scoring and assists with 20.1 PPG and 3.1 APG while David Jean-Baptiste has 14.7 PPG and Silvio De Sousa has 11.1 PPG with a team-high 7 RPG to make up the trio of double-digit scorers for Chattanooga so far this season. As a team, Chattanooga is averaging 75.1 PPG on 46.8% shooting from the field, 35.4% from three and 74.7% from the foul line while allowing 65 PPG on 42.1% shooting from the field and 29.9% from three this season.
The Illinois Fighting Illini come into the NCAA tournament as the #4 seed, finishing the year at 24-7 overall including 15-5 in Big Ten conference play, earning a share of the regular season title. The Illini’s stay in the conference tournament was short lived though, as the Illini were upset by Indiana in the quarterfinals. Kofi Cockburn leads Illinois in scoring and rebounding, averaging a double-double per game with 21.1 PPG and 10.6 RPG while Alfonso Plummer has 14.8 PPG and Jacob Grandison has 10.3 PPG with 4 RPG. Trent Frazier has 12.1 PPG with a team-high 4.1 APG to lead the Illini in assists and to make up the group of double-digit scorers for Illinois up to this point in the year. As a team, Illinois is averaging 76.2 PPG on 45.6% shooting from the field, 36.7% from three and 71% from the foul line while allowing 67.7 PPG on 41.4% shooting from the floor and 32.3% from three this season.
Chattanooga is 22-7-1 ATS in their last 30 games following an ATS loss and 1-3-1 ATS in their last 5 neutral site games while the over is 5-1 in their last 6 games following an ATS loss. Illinois is 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games overall and 1-5 ATS in their last 6 games against a team with a winning percentage above .600 while the under is 4-1 in their last 5 NCAA tournament games as a favorite.
I get why the Illini are favored here, but I feel this is a dangerous 4-13 matchup, one of many in this year’s tournament. Chattanooga does a lot of things really well and matchup well with the Illini statistically. Granted, no statistic can compare to the size of Kofi Cockburn in the middle, but the Mocs are playing well on both ends of the floor this year. Earlier this year, we saw Illinois get battered by a mediocre Cincinnati team and fail to cover against Kansas State on a neutral floor and I have a feeling this game will be closer than a lot of people think. The Mocs don’t get a ton of respect and they should. Give me the Mocs and the points here.