2021 NCAA Tournament Odds, Picks & Predictions: Fade Ohio State vs. Oral Roberts (March 19)
Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: EJ Liddell.
- Updated Ohio State vs. Oral Roberts odds have the Buckeyes as a 15.5-point favorite against the high-flying Eagles.
- Neither team plays much defense, and this NCAA Tournament opener promises to be fast and explosive on both offense ends.
- Our staff breaks down the game and shares a Ohio State vs. Oral Roberts pick based on their analysis below.
Ohio State vs. Oral Roberts Odds
|Ohio State Odds||-15.5|
|Oral Roberts Odds||+15.5|
|Moneyline||+950 / -1667|
|Time||Friday, 3 p.m. ET|
Oral Roberts returns to the dance for the first time in over a decade.
The Golden Eagles will look to secure their first NCAA Tournament win since a run to the Elite Eight in 1974.
In order to do so, they’ll have to pull off a major upset against Ohio State, which is fresh off a run to the Big Ten title game, where it lost in overtime to Illinois.
We haven’t seen a 15-seed beat a 2-seed in the NCAA Tournament since Middle Tennessee beat Michigan State almost five years ago to the day. In tournament history, 15 seeds own an 8-132 record for a 5.71% winning clip.
Here are the teams that have pulled off the feat:
It’s unlikely but certainly not impossible. We’ve also seen quite a few scares over the years.
Overall, about a quarter of the 2-15 matchups are decided by single digits. Florida Gulf Coast remains the only one to win two games in the same tourney.
Does Oral Roberts have a shot at adding its name to the list? Let’s take a closer look at each team and then break down the matchup from a betting perspective.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Tanner McGrath: After losing four straight games to end the regular season, the Buckeyes played great in the Big Ten Tournament.
After sneaking past Purdue, it took down a shorthanded Michigan team and then almost beat an incredible Illinois team, falling short in overtime.
Chris Holtmann’s offense is clicking. The Buckeyes are now fourth in the country in offensive efficiency, per KenPom. The Buckeyes are a well-rounded team, but the machine runs through Duane Washington and EJ Liddell.
The duo averages over 30 points a game this season but really showed how dynamic it is in the Big Ten Tournament.
Washington and Liddell combined to score 37 against Purdue, 42 against Michigan and then 44 against Illinois. Washington was a weapon from deep, hitting 14 3s in the three-game run.
The Buckeyes also have a great complimentary player in Justice Sueing, who scored 22 points on 6-for-14 shooting in the Big Ten Tournament Championship game.
Ohio State’s defense, however, is questionable at best. It finished 10th in the Big Ten this season in defensive efficiency, and the group allows more than 71 points per game.
The Buckeyes generally play Kyle Young and Liddell at the four and the five. Given they’re both shorter than 6-foot-8, interior defense and rebounding are major issues. Ohio State’s opponents shoot better than 62% at the rim (per Hoop-Math), and it finished eighth in the Big Ten in total rebounds per game (per Sports-Reference).
Not to even mention that Young is injured right now, and it’s unsure when he’ll play again. That’s a major defensive personnel problem for a team that already can’t defend.
But if Ohio State continues to score like it did against Illinois, no one may notice Young isn’t playing.
Oral Roberts Golden Eagles
Stuckey: Oral Roberts might be one of the most fun No. 15 seeds in tournament history.
This team can flat-out score, primarily thanks to Max Abmas and Kevin Obanor, who form a deadly pick-and-roll duo that has carried the Golden Eagles all season. They rank in the 98th percentile in half-court offense, per Synergy.
Abmas, the nation’s leading scorer, is capable of going for 40 points on any given night. Meanwhile, Obanor is a walking double-double who averages 18.2 PPG and 9.5 RPG.
Overall, Oral Roberts prefers to play fast (top-50 in adjusted tempo) and takes a high frequency of its shots from 3. And despite shooting 3s at the 22nd-highest rate in the country, ORU still shot 38.8% from beyond the arc — good enough for 11th in the country.
The Golden Eagles also rarely turn the ball (25th) and lead the nation in free-throw percentage at 82.6%. This offense, which ranks in the 98th percentile in terms of Points Per Possession (per Synergy) can keep up with the big boys.
The problem for Oral Roberts is its horrendous defense that can’t stop a nose bleed. ORU ranks 285th in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom.
By almost every metric, this is the worst defense in the field. It also really struggles on the glass on both ends.
Matchup & Betting Analysis
Stuckey: I’m not sure how Oral Roberts can get many stops against an outstanding Ohio State offense that runs superb sets under head coach Holtmann.
ORU might just have to hope the Buckeyes are ice-cold from 3. Yet even then, Ohio State should secure plenty of offensive rebounds that lead to second-chance opportunities. Maybe the ORU defense gets a boost from increased effort in the tournament, but it will likely need to win this game by simply out-scoring Ohio State in an absolute shootout.
That said, Oral Roberts could also have a field day on the offensive end against a very vulnerable Ohio State defense that ranks in just the 25th percentile in Points Per Possession, per Synergy.
The Buckeyes especially struggle on the perimeter and against pick-and-roll (32nd percentile, per Synergy), which could spell disaster against Abmas and the explosive Golden Eagle offense. Ohio State also rarely ever forces turnovers, so an Oral Roberts offense that ranks 25th in turnover rate won’t have many wasted possessions.
For what it’s worth, during non-conference play earlier this season, Oral Roberts competed on the road against tournament teams:
- 83-78 loss at Oklahoma State when Abmas scored 33 points in a duel with Cade Cunningham
- Another five-point loss at Wichita State (85-80)
- Lost 87-76 at Arkansas in a game ORU led by 12 in the second half
As you can see, the Golden Eagles didn’t get many stops but still kept all three road games close.
In the interest of full transparency, they also did lose by 14 at Oklahoma and by 27 at Missouri in their season opener.
Most importantly, they just won’t be initiated and have faced this level of competition already this season, which not all mid-majors that make it to the tournament can say.
Oral Roberts is a scary No. 15 seed since it can put up points on anybody, especially against an Ohio State defense with glaring holes. If Abmas and Obanor go nuclear to combine for 60-plus points, which is unlikely but not impossible, look out…this one could come down to the end.
It might also take an off-shooting night from Ohio State, in addition to Young not being at 100%. Oral Roberts is also one of the most 3-point reliant teams in the country, which does increase the variance although the amount of possessions we could see in this game offsets that a bit.
If ORU can’t hit anything from the outside, there’s a chance this gets out of hand similar to the game against Missouri to open the season when it went 7-of-35 from deep.
However, in the four other games against tournament teams (all on the road), Oral Roberts kept the margin within 16 points, which I think it does here.
There’s also a good chance that the prolific Oral Roberts offense can sneak in the backdoor here.
Pick: Oral Roberts +15.5 or better