Illinois vs. Ohio State College Basketball Odds & Pick: Bet the Over In Marquee Matchup
Michael Allio/Getty Images. Pictured: Justin Ahrens (10) passes the ball around Illinois Fighting Illini guard Andre Curbelo (5)
- The Illini head to Columbus in search of their third straight win over a ranked team.
- Ohio State has stumbled to the finish, losing three in a row, but can still secure a bye in the Big Ten Tournament.
- BJ Cunningham expects plenty of scoring even if Illinois is without one of its stars.
Illinois vs. Ohio State Odds
Illinois heads to Columbus looking for its third straight road win over a ranked opponent.
The Illini had maybe the most impressive win of the season on Tuesday, blowing out Michigan, 76-53, without their best player in Ayo Dosunmu.
Illinois is locked into the two-seed for the Big Ten Tournament, but another win over a top-10 team could lock up a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. It's unclear if Dosunmu will return for Saturday's contest, but Illinois has shown it's just fine without him.
#Illini Underwood says Ayo Dosunmu is still "day-to-day"…. "Can't rush the steps" of the concussion protocol.
— Derek Piper (@DPiper247) March 5, 2021
Ohio State is limping to the finish line, as it's lost three straight Big Ten games, including a game in which it put up 57 points at home against Iowa last Sunday.
The Buckeyes are currently the five-seed in the Big Ten but are only a half-game behind Purdue for fourth place, which would give them a first-round bye in the Big Ten Tournament next week.
When Illinois Has the Ball
I'll be honest. I thought Illinois was screwed when Dosunmu was ruled out for its last two games against Wisconsin and Michigan.
However, the complete opposite effect has happened, as some of the Illini's role players have stepped up in his absence.
Trent Frazier and Andre Curbelo have carried Illinois' backcourt, combining for 62 points in their last two games. But the real reason Illinois hasn't missed a beat is because of big man Kofi Cockburn.
Cockburn has been an absolute monster down low all season long, averaging 17.5 points and 9.8 rebounds. He went 7-of-7 from the field in the last meeting against Ohio State, and the Buckeyes don't have the size to match up with him, as their tallest player is 6-foot-8. Even if Dosunmu is ruled out again, I expect Illinois to feed him early and often.
Ohio State defensively has struggled to defend the paint all season long, allowing over 50% from 2-point range and over 61% on shot attempts at the rim. I have a hard time seeing how they are going to stop Cockburn and the rest of Illinois supporting cast inside.
When Ohio State Has the Ball
The Buckeyes have one of the best offenses in the country, ranking fourth in terms of efficiency, per KenPom. The reason they are so efficient is because the Buckeyes do everything well.
Ohio State ranks inside the top three in the conference in 2-point and 3-point percentage, so it can beat its opponents from anywhere. Its offense torched Illinois in the first meeting, averaging 1.23 points per possession and shooting over 50% from 3-point range.
Ohio State attempts 3-pointers on over 40% of its field goal attempts converting almost 37% of them. The good news for the Buckeyes is that's how you beat this Illinois defense. The Illini are 10th in the Big Ten in 3-point percentage allowed, so if the Buckeyes can hit a high percentage from deep, they have a good chance at beating the Illini.
Illinois is one of the best defenses in the Big Ten, allowing 0.96 points per possession. It's nearly impossible to score on in the paint.
Michigan saw that firsthand on Wednesday, as it shot only 36% from inside the arc. With a presence like Cockburn in the lane, the Illini allow 44.7% from 2-point range and 58.7% on shot attempts at the rim, per Hoop-Math. Ohio State is going to have to do most of its damage from behind the arc.
Betting Analysis & Pick
The Illini and Buckeyes both match up well with their opposing defenses, so I think this is going to be an offensive showcase even if Dosunmu is on the sidelines.
Additionally, Illinois plays a really fast tempo, so I expect it to try and force Ohio State out of its comfort zone and turn this into a track meet. Therefore, I am going to back over 150.5 points and would play it up to 151.5.
Pick: Over 150.5 (up to 151.5).