Oddsmakers have made the Fighting Illini what seems like a lofty -6.5 favorite heading into the NCAAB Ohio State at Illinois pick. Of course Brad Underwood has a good team ranked #14 in the nation, but Illinois just lost 66-63 in Champaign last Sunday as -10.5 favorites against Maryland.
The Buckeyes are no slouch either, coming into this Big Ten road tilt ranked 21st in the country most recently getting a tough win at Rutgers as +3.5 underdogs and covering the -8.5 number at home last time out against Northwestern. The Buckeyes beat Illinois 71-63 in Columbus last year as -5.5 favorites in the teams’ only meeting of the season.
Ohio State a Bit Banged Up
What’s the most impressive about Ohio State’s 81-71 win over Northwestern on Wednesday is that the Buckeyes scored the victory not only without starting PG C.J. Walker (hand) but with backup Jimmy Sotos (shoulder) out as well. Even with a limited number of ball handlers, the Buckeyes produced their second highest scoring output of the last 9 games.
The Buckeyes have shown great depth heading into the NCAAB Ohio State at Illinois pick as four players put up at least a dozen vs. Northwestern. E.J. Liddell didn’t hit a shot from the floor vs. Northwestern but he did grab 10 boards while Kyle Young hauled in 9 – something that will be important against Illinois, which has the best rebounding rate in the nation (59%).
Chris Holtmann likes his team’s chances in this one. as the Buckeyes have the #4 defense in the Big Ten and Illinois hasn’t broken 70 points in any of their last three home games. Ohio State is just 2-3 on the road this season however, and has already dropped games at Purdue (67-60), Northwestern (71-70), and Minnesota (77-60) in conference play.
Illinois Ready to Play Angry
There’s nothing a team wants to do more after an upsetting loss than get back on the court. Illinois was denied that chance after the loss to Maryland when Wednesday’s tilt with Nebraska was cancelled due to COVID testing from the Cornhuskers.
Now the Fighting Illini will have been steaming for 6 days since the upset at home to the Terrapins. Illinois looked very top-heavy in that loss, as Ayo Dosunmu (23 points, 8 rebounds) and Kofi Cockburn (21/10) both had electric nights and the Fighting Illini still lost. Illinois showed none of the depth that led them to four straight wins, including outscoring Northwestern 53-13 in the second half on January 7th.
The Fighting Illini still have the #2 offense in the Big Ten, but will get a test against the Buckeyes defense. Ohio State can also hold their own on the boards, ranking 4th in the Big Ten in rebounding margin.
Free Ohio State at Illinois Pick
The -6.5 is looking like a lot to give in this one, but Ohio State has had their struggles on the road and Illinois got an extra day of rest with Wednesday’s game being cancelled. An Illinois blowout or an Ohio State outright win wouldn’t be a surprise which is why this becomes a total play.
The betting total is set at 145.5, and Illinois has slowed the pace recently with four straight going ‘under.’ The Ohio State defense has the ability to step up and keep that trend going.
Illinois 69 – Ohio State 64
Free Pick: Under 145.5