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No. 8 Arkansas vs. No. 9 Illinois preview for March Madness First Round matchup

No. 8 Arkansas Razorbacks and No. 9 Illinois Fighting Illini face off in the First Round of the 2023 NCAA tournament. We’ve got an initial preview of the game and how to watch.

Georgia v Arkansas Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The NCAA Tournament begins on Tuesday, March 14th with the First Four, and then moves on to the First Round on Thursday, March 16 and Friday, March 17. The No. 8 seed Arkansas Razorbacks will face the No. 9 seed Illinois Fighting Illini on Thursday, March 16.

Here’s an early look at what we can expect from the matchup.

Once odds from DraftKings Sportsbook are made available for this game, we’ll add that information below. We’ll also add the game time and TV channel once it’s settled.

Game date: Thursday, March 16
Game time: 4:30 p.m. ET
TV channel: TBS
Location: Des Moines, IA

Odds: Arkansas -2.5

No. 8 Arkansas

Arkansas started their season 11-1 before hitting conference play, where the Razorbacks went 8-10, including three consecutive losses end the campaign. Head coach Eric Musselman likes for his team to get up and down the court; they average 75 points per game while holding their opponents to 67.

Arkansas lost a couple of key contributors from last year’s team JD Notae and Jaylin Williams, but they were still able to have a successful season and make it into the tournament. Arkansas is led in scoring by Wichita State transfer Ricky Council IV, who averages about 16 points per game. He stirs the drink for Arkansas, but they also have quality players in Anthony Black and Devontae Davis.

Record: 20-13, 8-10 SEC

Coach: Eric Musselman

Qualifier: At-large

KenPom overall: 20

KenPom adjusted offensive efficiency: 51

KenPom adjusted defensive efficiency: 15

PPP overall: 1.033

Leading scorer: Ricky Council IV

NET: 21

Quad 1 record: 4-10

Against The Spread: 16-16-1

Over Total: 14-18-1

Odds to win NCAA Championship: +6000

No. 9 Illinois

Ranked among the nation’s top teams early in the season, the Fighting Illini fell into mediocrity for much of the rest of the campaign. The Illini went just 5-5 in a 10-game stretch in the beginning-to-middle of the season, but then rattled off wins in seven of their next eight. They then closed out the regular season going just 4-5 in their final nine.

Guard Terrence Shannon Jr. has proven to be a reliable scoring option for the Illini, averaging 17.1 points per game. Matthew Mayer’s 13.0 points per contest have also helped Illinois balance their scoring attack. But given how inconsistent the team has been all year long, it is hard to predict whether we will get Good Illinois or Bad Illinois in the tournament.

Record: 20-12, 11-9 Big Ten

Coach: Brad Underwood

Qualifier: At-large

KenPom overall: 33

KenPom adjusted offensive efficiency: 59

KenPom adjusted defensive efficiency: 32

Pace: 71

PPP overall: 1.044

Leading scorer: Terrence Shannon Jr.

NET: 34

Quad 1 record: 2-11

Against The Spread: 17-14-1

Over Total: 15-16-1

Odds to win NCAA Championship: +10000