College Basketball Previews: West Virginia-Gonzaga, Illinois-Baylor

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A blockbuster college basketball week rolls on, as tonight’s action includes the top-ranked team in the country taking on a ranked foe along with a showdown between two other top-5 teams.

No. 1 Gonzaga faces No. 11 West Virginia at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT and No. 2 Baylor takes on No. 5 Illinois at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT, with both contests taking place at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis for the Jimmy V Classic.

Not only is Gonzaga tops in the polls, but the Bulldogs are also listed first in William Hill’s college basketball title futures. Gonzaga is currently the 4/1 favorite in that market, followed by Baylor at 7/1. Illinois has the fourth-lowest odds at 15/1, while West Virginia is tied for the sixth-lowest odds with Michigan State at 20/1.

For tonight, Gonzaga opened as an 8-point favorite over West Virginia. The Bulldogs went up to as high as -9 before settling at their current spread of -8.5. The total has jumped up by two points, shifting from 154.5 to 156.5.

“Gonzaga’s good for basketball, it’s a great mid-major story,” said Nick Bogdanovich, Director of Trading for William Hill US. “We don’t have many power teams out west, and they’ve been the class program out here the past 10-15 years. They draw a lot of money, I can tell you that. They were bet a lot against Kansas, now they’re getting bet again today against West Virginia.”

William Hill bettors are backing the favorite heavily here, as Gonzaga has gotten 87% of the total number of tickets and 93% of the total dollars wagered among all spread bets vs. West Virginia. Moneyline wagering for this game is even more lopsided, as Gonzaga has reeled in 94% of the total number of tickets and 99% of the total dollars wagered.

The second marquee clash, however, has been a lot more split.

“Baylor looks strong, [Baylor head coach Scott] Drew’s got a great program,” said Bogdanovich. “Illinois is supposed to be a monster this year too. That will probably be our best game of the day. That line is tighter than Gonzaga-West Virginia and it’s a later game.”

As a 4.5-point underdog, Illinois has drawn 56% of the total number of tickets and 53% of the total dollars wagered among all spread bets vs. Baylor. Illinois (+175 ML) also has the advantage in total dollars wagered for all moneyline bets at 76%, while Baylor (-200 ML) has the edge in total number of tickets at 56%.

William Hill bettors are also divided on this game’s total, which has dropped 1.5 points from 144.5 to 143. The over has brought in 56% of the total number of tickets, yet the under has generated 55% of the total dollars wagered.

Check out William Hill’s latest odds and trends for West Virginia vs. Gonzaga and Illinois vs. Baylor below.

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