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Northwestern vs. Illinois Preview | Pick

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 30, 2009 – #25 Northwestern Wildcats (10-1) vs Illinois Fighting Illini (8-4)

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The No. 25 Northwestern Wildcats will take on the Fighting Illini of Illinois on Wednesday at the friendly confines of Assembly Hall in Champaign, IL.

Illinois has beaten Northwestern 25 of the last 27 times they have met. Northwestern led by 14 points at home with less than five minutes to go in last years meeting but fell 60-59 on a Demetri McCamey game-winning bucket in the closing moments.

The Wildcats worked their way into the Top 25 for the first time in 41 years, recording their first 10-game winning streak in nearly eight decades. Northwestern is winning games with its solid defense that is allowing just 58.9 points per game — second in the conference. They are also protecting the ball well, surrendering just 11.5 turnovers per game, and are among the nation’s top 25 in that category. The Wildcats offense is led by junior point guard Michael Thompson (16.7 ppg), followed by sophomore forward John Shurna (15.9). Northwestern’s two-point field goal percentage of 55.6 is among the nation’s top 20.

After riding a four-game winning streak, Illinois fell 70-67 to a struggling Georgia on Dec. 19 and then were blown out 81-68 by Missouri on Dec. 2. Illinois turned over the ball a season-high 22 times in the loss. Mike Tisdale had 14 points and 13 rebounds, while Demetri McCamey followed with 13 points in the loss. McCamey leads the Fighting Illini in scoring (14.1), assists (5.4) and steals (1.7). Illinois’ lack of defense continues to be its biggest issue.

Illinois lost their top three defenders from last years No. 5 seeded NCAA tournament team –seniors Chester Frazier, Trent Meacham and Calvin Brock, and have struggled to find the right replacements to fill in those voids this season.

Illinois is 7-0 at home, but it is against some not so tough early non-conference opponents.

The Wildcats are 3-0 against formidable opponents, and the Wildcats will test the legitimacy of their squad.

Wildcats vs. Illinois Odds

The odds makers have Illinois as –7-point favorites with a game total of 135.

A Few Trends:

Northwestern is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Northwestern’s last 5 games when playing Illinois
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Northwestern’s last 5 games when playing on the road against Illinois
Northwestern is 4-2 ATS in its last 6 games on the road
The total has gone OVER in 5 of Illinois’s last 5 games
Illinois is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games when playing Northwestern
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Illinois’s last 5 games when playing Northwestern
Illinois is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games when playing at home against Northwestern

Free Wildcats vs Fighting Illini CBB Pick

Expect Illinois to pull this one out with a close home court victory late in the second half.

Next up: Northwestern home to Michigan State, Saturday, January 2
Illinois home to Gonzaga, Saturday, January 2

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Matt Martz is a freelance writer located in Central California. Blessed is the gambler who expects nothing, for ye shall not be disappointed.

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