Thursday’s College Basketball Betting Previews: Illinois-Ohio State, UTSA-Southern Miss

Thursday’s College Basketball Betting Previews: Illinois-Ohio State, UTSA-Southern Miss article feature image
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Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Ohio State Buckeyes forward Kaleb Wesson (34), guard Keyshawn Woods (32), forward Kyle Young (25) and forward Andre Wesson (24).

What’s a better way to spend Valentines Day than watching college basketball — despite your partner’s likely response? With just two ranked teams taking the court, let’s dig into a pair of unranked matchups.

In the Big Ten, Ohio State faces Illinois before UTSA travels to Southern Miss for a Conference USA showdown.

Where’s the value in these two games? Let’s break them down.


>> All odds as of Wednesday night. Download The Action Network App to get real-time NCAAB odds and track your bets.


Betting Odds: Illinois Fighting Illini at Ohio State Buckeyes

  • Spread: Ohio State -8.5
  • Over/Under: 141
  • Time: 7 p.m. ET
  • TV: ESPN2

The Buckeyes (10-13 against the spread) and Fighting Illini (10-14 ATS) have each covered in two of their past three contests, but Brad Underwood’s crew represents one of the hottest teams in the country. Illinois has won four of its past five affairs outright, including two over No. 11 Michigan State and No. 24 Maryland.

The Illini’s recent success stems from their swarming ball pressure, turning opponents over at the 15th-highest rate (23.2%) in Division I. Ohio State is producing the highest turnover percentage (21.2%) in Big Ten play and totaled 19 of them in their first meeting on Dec. 5, which resulted in an OSU cover and straight-up win.

Expect Illinois’ backcourt, led by Trent Frazier and Andres Feliz, to give the Buckeyes plenty of issues in their half-court sets.

Underwood’s pushes the pace often because of their defensive success, producing the 34th-highest Adjusted Tempo (71.3 possessions per 40 minutes). It’s tallying 23.3 free-throw attempts per game in its recent wins, too. With Ohio State yielding the second-highest free-throw rate during its league slate, expect Illinois to have success attacking the rack.

Plus, the Illini are developing a critical weapon inside in 6-foot-9 freshman Giorgi Bezhanishvili, who’s averaging 25.5 points per game in his last two affairs while shooting 69.0% from the field. He’ll give Buckeyes big Kaleb Wesson a battle at both ends.

This line is simply too high — even with Ohio State’s improved play of late.

THE PICK: Illinois +8.5

Betting Odds: UTSA Roadrunners at Southern Miss Golden Eagles

  • Spread: Southern Miss -3.5
  • Over/Under: 143
  • Time: 8 p.m. ET
  • TV: ESPN+

The Golden Eagles (10-10 ATS) have covered in three of their past four affairs after failing to do so in three straight games. On the flip side, the Roadrunners (15-6 ATS) have covered in five of their past six games. Their one hiccup (+6) came at Western Kentucky, where they blew a four-point lead with 1:33 left.

Not only is UTSA boasting the highest Adjusted Offensive Efficiency (112.1 points per 100 possessions) in Conference USA play, but it’s also accruing the second-highest 3-point clip (39.5%) to go along with the second-highest scoring rate from that vicinity.

Within Southern Miss’ sixth-lowest Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (101.2 opponents’ points per 100 possessions) in the league, it’s let up the second-highest scoring rate (41.2%) from behind the arc.

Look for 6-foot guard Jhivvan Jackson (22.7 ppg) to continue to takeover from all over the court, as he’s accrued the highest shot percentage (39.5%) and seventh-highest possession rate (35.0%), respectively, in DI.

At the other end, the Golden Eagles’ second-rated AdjO is effective from the perimeter (40.1%) as well, but the Roadrunners have held their opponents to the lowest 3-point clip (28.9%).

They’ll also lack size in this matchup while struggling to create second-chance opportunities overall, totaling the 19th-lowest offensive rebounding rate (22.1%) in DI. Given UTSA’s fourth-highest defensive rebounding percentage (24.4%) in CUSA, it should be able to control the pace via its quick tempo.

Per our Bet Labs data, the Roadrunners are 4-2 (66.7%) ATS as an underdog in league play this season. Expect that trend to continue in Hattiesburg.

THE PICK: UTSA +3.5