The Big Ten Tournament championship is set with the #9 Ohio State Buckeyes (21-8, 12-8 Big Ten) facing the #3 Illinois Fighting Illini (22-6, 16-4 Big Ten) on Sunday. The two teams split their regular-season meetings, both winning on the road. OSU entered the conference tournament as the league’s five-seed, while the Illini were the conference’s two-seed.
Sunday’s tipoff is set for 3:30 p.m. EST inside Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN. The game can be viewed nationally on CBS. Illinois is a 5.5-point favorite over the Buckeyes in the conference title, according to oddsmakers.
What to Know – Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State is in the title game for the first time since 2013. The Buckeyes took down rival Michigan, 68-67, on Saturday to punch their ticket to the championship. OSU is projected as a two-seed in the NCAA Tournament according to most bracket projections.
The Buckeyes average 77.0 points per game while shooting 46% from the floor and 36.7% from three. Defensively, OSU holds opponents to 70.3 points per game, 42.3% shooting from the field, and 33.9% shooting from deep.
Ohio State got 24 points from junior guard Duane Washington Jr. and 18 from sophomore forward E.J. Liddell in the narrow victory over Michigan. Washington tied his season-high with five made threes. OSU was deadly beyond the arc as a team, hitting 54.5% (12-of-22) of their three-point attempts.
OSU is 16-12-1 against the spread this season, but only 2-5 ATS in their last seven games. The Buckeyes are 13-9-1 ATS in conference play but have struggled in recent games on Sundays, going 1-6 ATS.
What to Know – Illinois Fighting Illini
The Fighting Illini are one of the hottest college basketball teams in the country and peaking at the right time. Illinois has won 13 of their last 14 games, including six-straight. After finishing second in the regular-season standings and making it to the championship, the Illini are projected to a top seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Illinois scored 81.1 points per game behind a conference-best 50% shooting from the field and 37.4% shooting from beyond the arc. The Fighting Illini surrender 68.6 points per game defensively and hold teams to 41.1% shooting from the floor and 32.7% from the three-point line.
The Illini cruised Saturday in their 82-71 semifinal victory over the Iowa Hawkeyes, thanks to an 8-point halftime advantage. Sophomore center Kofi Cockburn hit 11-of-17 field goals for a game-high 26 points and chipped in eight rebounds. Junior guard Ayo Dosunmu added 18 points and seven rebounds. Although Illinois shot only 20% (3-of-15) from three, the Illini won the rebounding battle, 42-35, and committed just eight turnovers.
Illinois is 19-9 ATS with a 6-0 mark ATS in recent games. The Illini are 16-6 ATS in Big Ten play and 18-5 ATS as the favorite.
The Pick is In
Illinois is deep and talented, with all systems in check to make a deep run in March. OSU will need another 50% shooting effort from deep to keep up with the Illini, and we don’t see that happening. This will be the third game for these teams in as many days, fatigue shouldn’t play a huge factor, but it may play a role nonetheless. Illinois takes the title in an 80-71 victory.
The Pick: Illinois Fighting Illini -5.5