Ohio State Is Red Hot, But Are Their Title Odds Worth a Bet?

Ohio State Is Red Hot, But Are Their Title Odds Worth a Bet? article feature image

Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Ohio State Buckeyes guard C.J. Jackson (3).

  • Ohio State enters Big Ten conference play with just one loss, but the top of the conference is extremely crowded.
  • With the Buckeyes' title odds at 66-1, they present an interesting opportunity for bettors.

Chris Holtmann, you’ve done it again.

Not only have his teams reached the NCAA tournament in each of his four seasons at major programs (Butler, Ohio State), but he’s accomplished that feat without a dominant point guard. From point-forward Roosevelt Jones to N.C. State transfer Tyler Lewis, Holtmann has found a success by making the most of his entire roster.

The second-year Buckeyes coach has his group in position to earn a ticket into March Madness yet again as a 66-1 national title future bet, going 12-1 straight up and 7-6 against the spread thus far.

Where does this team’s value sit as its Big Ten docket resumes vs. Michigan State on Saturday?

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CBS Sports bracketologist Jerry Palm pegged Ohio State as a No. 6 seed in his latest projections, but he’s not bullish on its finish come the big dance.

“The way I see the Big Ten is you’ve got Michigan and Michigan State — small gap — and then three through say 10 are all about the same [right now],” Palm told The Action Network. “I think if they (the Buckeyes) can finish third in the Big Ten, which I’d say is their ceiling in the league, that could be a three-seed [in the NCAA tournament].”

The Big Ten is a jumbled mess after non-conference play. The Buckeyes are knotted in a three-way tie with Wisconsin and Purdue for Caesars’ fourth-best conference tournament title odds (10-1).

Michigan State (2-1), Michigan (5-2) and Nebraska (6-1) lead the pack. If they’re able to snag a No. 3 seed, though, 66-1 would’ve made for a fine future bet.

What’s most impressive about Ohio State is its elite defense, notching the 20th-lowest Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (92.6 opponents’ Points Per 100 Possessions) in college basketball. The past 11 national champions amassed a top-20 AdjD, so it’s a trend worth following with teams’ sample size rounding into form.

Within that department, the Buckeyes have yielded the 15th-lowest Effective Field Goal Percentage in Division I (43.6%). Although the metrics favored OSU last season as well, its perimeter defense has improved greatly this campaign, lessening by 5.8 percentage points (29.3%).

Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Ohio State forward Andre Wesson (24), Syracuse forward Oshae Brissett (11).

Its success derives from Holtmann’s philosophy, centering around transition defense and limiting opponents’ dribble penetration.

Plus, the Buckeyes have restricted Cincinnati, Creighton and Minnesota — all top-65 KenPom opponents — to under 1.00 PPP. Those programs don’t represent the top dogs in the country, but future bets revolve around finding an advantage before the market catches up. Holtmann’s crew faces MSU twice and Michigan once, presenting it with an opportunity to see its futures rise.

There’s also plenty of potential in Ohio State’s offense — even after losing Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate, its top-two scorers from a season ago. It operates via the 6-foot-9, 270-pound Kaleb Wesson (16.5 points per game), who owns the 21st-highest possession rate and 25th-highest free throw rate in the nation.

He’s one of the top bigs in the Big Ten — in a conference full of them — and brings back memories of how the program played through Jared Sullinger en route to the 2012 Final Four.

It’s not to say Wesson represents the next Sullinger, but rather spectacular guard play isn’t the only way teams make deep runs in March. For instance, Michigan’s Zavier Simpson was an elite playmaker last season but wasn’t much of a scoring factor in the bulk of the Wolverines’ matchups amid their run to the title game.

As for the Buckeyes’ backcourt, Wake Forest transfer Keyshawn Woods (3.4 assists per game) has evolved into a welcomed addition alongside C.J. Jackson (4.0 APG), providing Holtmann with two legitimate ball handlers who can create and score consistently.

In fact, they’re the lone Big Ten duo with a top-300 assist rate.

Not only can Jackson and Woods sling it from deep, shooting 41.3% and 36.4% on 3s respectively, but they’re also surrounded with a compliment of perimeter gunners.

Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured (left to right): Keyshawn Woods (32), Luther Muhammad (1), C.J. Jackson (3), Andre Wesson (24).

OSU slots in with the 52nd-highest 3-point shooting in the nation (37.4%), led by freshman Luther Muhammed (43.3%), who is filled with promise to breakout in Big Ten play.

However, only 29.3% of its offense comes from behind the arc, as the Buckeyes have dictated a slower tempo in many of their duels because of their prowess for getting to the charity stripe.

They’ve amassed the 24th-highest free throw rate in the nation, and their pace will aid their chances against the likes of Michigan State, limiting their opponents’ transition opportunities.

Bet on the mastery of Holtmann, as he’ll present a scheme and roster that’s built for producing a deep NCAA tournament run.