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No. 4 Illinois vs. No. 13 Chattanooga: Preview, picks for first round of 2022 NCAA Tournament

The Illinois Fighting Illini and Chattanooga Mocs meet at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh in the first round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament. We’ve got everything you need on both teams ahead of the game here.

The first round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament continues on Friday with a South region matchup at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh between the No. 4 Illinois Fighting Illini and the No. 13 Chattanooga Mocs. The game will tip off at 6:50 p.m. ET on TNT.

No. 4 Illinois: 22-9 (15-5 Big Ten): At-Large

KenPom rating: 16 Overall, 22 Offense, 32 Defense
NET ranking: 15, (6-6 Vs. Quad 1)
Leading scorer: Kofi Cockburn (21.1 ppg)
Key stat: Illinois is holding opponents to just 45.4% shooting from two.

Illinois heads into round one coming off a strong season where it held its own in a difficult Big Ten. The Fighting Illini rattled off three straight wins to end the regular season before getting clipped by Indiana during last week’s conference tournament.

The team has been a relatively balanced team on both the offensive and defensive sides of the floor all season long, ranking in the Top 35 in both offensive and defensive adjusted efficiency.

No. 13 Chattanooga: 27-7 (14-4 SoCon): Auto Bid

KenPom rating: 69 Overall, 55 Offense, 93 Defense
NET ranking: 63 (1-2 Vs. Quad 1)
Leading scorer: Malachi Smith (20.1 ppg)
Key stat: Chattanooga has held opponents to just 30.6% shooting from three.

Chattanooga enters the tourney as the SoCon representative after edging Furman 64-63 in the league title game last week. The Mocs’ strength has been on the offensive side of the ball, routinely putting up 70+ points per game.

Chattanooga has been one of the stronger teams in the country in pulling down offensive rebounds and will have to figure out a way to counter Kofi Cockburn in the paint to keep that going.

Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook

Point spread: Illinois -8
Point total: 135.5
Moneyline: Illinois -365, Chattanooga +280

The Pick

Against The Spread Pick: Chattanooga +8
Point total pick: 135.5
Pick to Win: Illinois

There is a value to an underdog team coming off a strong run to a conference tournament title and as a Top 75 team in KenPom, the Mocs should be able to make things tight towards the very end. Ultimately, the Illini are more battle tested and should prevail here.

From a total standpoint, take the under.

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