Illinois vs. Houston March Madness Prediction: Cougars’ Choice

For the second straight year, Houston and Illinois are in the same region of the NCAA tournament bracket. But unlike last season, when the Elite Eight’s collision course was avoided when the Illini lost early, Illinois survived a last-second fight with Chattanooga and meets Houston in Pittsburgh to start Sunday’s eight games.

Illinois and Chattanooga might not have played the highest quality game in the first round, but the Fighting Illini fought in double digits in the second half, avoiding a loss to the Mocs at the buzzer to advance to the second round. Chattanooga had two attempts in the closing seconds to win the game and led for 38 minutes, but the Illini survived 54-53.

Houston used his red-hot shooting early in his first-round game against UAB and held off several comeback attempts by the Blazers. The multitude of brackets had Illinois making the Sweet 16 and the Illini are the higher seeded, but the market sees the Cougars as a vastly better team. The Cougars won 82-68 and led the entire second half by at least eight.

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I circled this as a potential spot for Houston when the bracket came out, and while we don’t get the best number since Houston has multiple possessions, the Cougars are clearly the better team. And more importantly, they are the more consistent team. Andre Curbelo and Trent Frazier can collapse at any time, and the Cougars’ defense always travels, even if this game is ugly.

Betting on March Madness 2022?

If the teams were able to neutralize Kofi Cockburn and prevent easy open looks for the Illinois shooters, it’s not hard to stop the Illinois offense. Houston takes away post-ups and 3-pointers better than any defense in the country, and for that reason I expect Houston will have no trouble sending off Illinois.

Only a great game of Curbelo and Frazier will come this close. Because we’re not making the most of the number, I wouldn’t put in more than four points.

The game: Houston -4 or better Illinois vs. Houston March Madness Prediction: Cougars’ Choice


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