Ohio State vs. Illinois Odds & Prediction: Bet Tuesday’s Big Ten Favorite
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images. Pictured: Brad Underwood (Illinois)
Ohio State vs. Illinois Odds
|Ohio State Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
In late January, there are just two losses separating second place and 12th place in the Big Ten standings.
KenPom currently projects eight Big Ten schools to finish conference play with a 10-10 record, which is more than half the conference.
By the time March rolls around, the bubble line for inclusion in the NCAA tournament will fall somewhere in the middle of that pack, making every game featuring two tournament-quality Big Ten teams particularly vital.
The prognosis for this Buckeyes team has changed drastically over the course of the month of January.
Ohio State entered 2023 with a 9-3 record, but suffered a five-game losing streak in Big Ten play. Against a range of opponents, those five losses came by a combined total of just 19 points.
The Bucks had topped-ranked Purdue on the ropes before letting the Boilermakers slide back in the game, but also lost a home duel to lowly Minnesota.
Ohio State's troubles have set in on both ends of the floor. Purdue, Maryland and Minnesota scored efficiently against the Buckeyes to start the losing streak.
Once they plugged the leak on the defensive end — holding Rutgers and Nebraska under 1.0 points per possession — the Buckeyes' offense went dry with two of its three worst efficiency performances of the season.
Ohio State broke the losing skid with a big win over Iowa, yet it came at a cost. Center Zed Key suffered a knee injury that could sideline him against the Illini.
That would be a major concern, especially on the glass. Ohio State has been out-rebounded in all but one of its losses this season.
The Illini are very enigmatic.
Brad Underwood lost plenty of talent from last year's roster but added two of the biggest prizes in the transfer portal, Terrence Shannon Jr. and Matthew Mayer.
Illinois boasts one of the most talented rosters in the Big Ten, yet has shown a propensity to fall flat. Each of the Illini's last four losses have come by 13 or more points.
In fact, the Illini have been so up and down, they rarely play a close game. Illinois hasn't played a game that was decided by fewer than nine points — win or lose — since a Dec. 6 overtime win over Texas.
In total, Illinois has played only two games decided by nine or fewer.
That speaks to the variance of Underwood's team. It's not like this is a case of hot and cold shooting, either. From night to night, Illinois' issues might swing from turnovers to defensive miscommunications to a lack of aggressiveness.
One constant has been misses at the free-throw line. In three of Illinois' losses, the Illini hit worse than 50% of their freebies, including a 9-of-23 showing versus Indiana.
In theory, with a bank of talent and a good coach, this is a team to buy stock in before March. In practice, that's a bit terrifying.
Freshman starter Skyy Clark stepped away from the program due to a personal issue. Filling his production has been encouraging, with fellow freshmen Jayden Epps and Sencire Harris stepping in.
At times, however, Illinois looks lost without a veteran primary ball-handler.
Ohio State vs. Illinois Betting Pick
If Key were expected to recover and play in this game, the Buckeyes might have a case as an intriguing underdog getting a few points.
Under the assumption that he will not be ready to go, Ohio State has real depth problems in the frontcourt. Key is the only player taller than 6-foot-6 seeing major minutes, with 6-foot-11 freshman Felix Okpara playing sparingly.
There are certainly worse matchups in the Big Ten for a team missing its tentpole big man.
Purdue's Zach Edey, Indiana's Trayce Jackson-Davis or Michigan's Hunter Dickinson would be licking their chops at the prospect of playing the Buckeyes without Key (Jackson-Davis and Dickinson may have the chance with future dates with the Bucks upcoming).
Illinois is still strong enough up front to take advantage. Coleman Hawkins makes for a tricky cover, especially for an inexperienced big like Okpara.
Bully-ball sophomore Dain Dainja could be the real beneficiary and is worth exploring if you live in a state that offers player props.
The Bucks have hit a brutal stretch of their schedule and a key injury (no pun intended) only makes that worse.
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