College Basketball Odds & Picks for Ohio State vs. Penn State: Buckeyes Are In Prime Letdown Spot
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images. Pictured: John Harrar.
Ohio State vs. Penn State Odds
|Ohio State Odds|
-110o / -110u
|Penn State Odds|
-110o / -110u
One great half of basketball can alter the public perception of a team quite a bit, and look no further than Ohio State for this week’s overreaction in college basketball. 20 minutes of excellent play at home against No. 1 Duke doesn’t tell us much of anything about a basketball team over the course of the 30-plus game season.
Now, Ohio State is a 3.5-point road favorite at Penn State when both teams open Big 10 play on Sunday night at Bryce Jordan Arena. The Nittany Lions just lost at home against Miami in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
Penn State isn’t as bad as it looked on Tuesday vs. Miami, and Ohio State is in a primetime letdown spot off the biggest win the Buckeyes will likely add to their resumé this entire season.
Both situationally and matchup wise, the Nittany Lions are underpriced at home on Sunday.
Ohio State has played one of the toughest nonconference schedules in the entire country and already played a road game in a hostile environment when the Buckeyes lost at Xavier in November. But OSU has also played close contests with Florida and Seton Hall, splitting those two, and then grabbed a huge win at home with a double-digit comeback against the Blue Devils.
OSU caught Duke in a wonderful spot after its win against Gonzaga and slowed the game to a halt by forcing the Blue Devils to execute in the half court, which they could not do at all in the second half. The Buckeyes offense primarily runs through two players — E.J. Liddell and Zed Key. Key primarily does his work in the post and contributes on the glass. Meanwhile, Liddell is one of the best players in the country offensively, has a very high assist and usage rate and can score at all levels. Liddell averages 21.3 points per game and adds on 7.3 rebounds on top of that.
The Buckeyes offense is elite and has always been elite under head coach Chris Holtmann, but Liddell and Key have a difficult matchup on the inside against Penn State center John Harrar on Sunday night.
Ohio State won’t be able to take advantage of an undersized Penn State because its size isn’t particularly overwhelming either. Jamari Wheeler is the Buckeyes’ leading assister this year, and he transferred from Penn State following the conclusion of last year. As good as he’s been, he’s unlikely to keep up his unsustainably good shooting numbers going forward.
The Nittany Lions have their third head coach in three years as Micah Shrewsberry takes the program over following one year of Jim Ferry basketball. Despite the transition, Penn State actually brings a lot of its talent back from last year’s underachieving squad that was top 40 in KenPom, despite finishing with an 11-14 overall record.
They may rank just 202nd in minutes continuity, but the Nittany Lions have the seventh oldest team in the country and are led by 6-foot-6 wing Seth Lundy. He partners with Sam Sessoms to lead the Nittany Lions in scoring and the two of them should be able to exploit a very mediocre Buckeyes defense
Sessoms and Dalliom Johnson are the only two reliable shooters from deep, but Lundy can score at all levels and Penn State should be able to get into the lane and draw fouls on Liddell and Key while also preventing the Buckeyes from getting out in transition off long rebounds.
The Nittany Lions rank among the slowest offenses in the country, they don’t shoot a lot of 3s and they rely mostly on interior scoring. Given how little OSU turns over opponents, Penn State should be able to limit its turnovers, make this game a slow-paced slog and rely on Harrar to protect the paint defensively, while helping add some offensive rebounding off PSU misses.
Ohio State vs. Penn State Betting Pick
Ohio State picked up one of the best wins of the season against Duke on Tuesday after playing a near flawless final 10 minutes. But when you take into account their entire body of work, it’s significantly less impressive overall. Playing on the road against a solid Penn State team who will be all-in for this game as the home conference opener, it’s a great spot to fade Ohio State again.
Liddell may be able to take over and dominate, but Harrar is a solid presence on the inside and should be able to affect some shots and prevent second-chance looks for Liddell and Key. You’d expect OSU sharpshooters Kyle Ahrens and Wheeler to regress a bit from beyond the arc given their hot starts, and OSU’s defense remains very average in the halfcourt. Penn State’s slow-paced offense can grind this game to a halt and take advantage of the Buckeyes’ mediocre defensive numbers.
Pick: Penn State +4.5 (play to +3)