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College Basketball Bettings Odds & Pick for Ohio State vs. Illinois: Expect Easy Illini Win Over Buckeyes in Big Ten Finale (Sunday, March 14)

College Basketball Bettings Odds & Pick for Ohio State vs. Illinois: Expect Easy Illini Win Over Buckeyes in Big Ten Finale (Sunday, March 14) article feature image

Justin Casterline/Getty Images. Pictured: Ayo Dosunmu #11, Kofi Cockburn #21 and Andre Curbelo #5 of Illinois.

  • There might not be a hotter team in the country than Illinois, which advanced to Sunday's Big Ten title game with an 82-71 win over Iowa.
  • Ohio State has had a much easier path to the final, but barely hung on to beat Michigan in Saturday's games.
  • Tanner McGrath expects Illinois to cruise to victory and earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Big Ten Conference Championship

Ohio State vs. Illinois Odds

Ohio State Odds+5.5
Illinois Odds-5.5
Moneyline+205 / -250
Time | TVSunday, 3:30 p.m. ET | CBS
Odds as of Saturday evening and via FanDuel.

Selection Sunday and the Big Ten Championship game have finally arrived.

Most believed Michigan would be a part of both, but the injury to Isaiah Livers proved too problematic in Saturday’s semifinal game. Instead, the No. 5 seed Buckeyes will play for the conference title.

Unfortunately for Ohio State fans, Illinois is playing some of the best basketball in the country right now.

If you had read my Big Ten Tournament Betting Preview, you would know my top two “Buys” coming into this tournament were Illinois +350 and Ohio State +500, while my top two “Sells” were Michigan +160 and Iowa +420.

Therefore — and I don’t think this is too conceited to say this — it would be wise to tail me in the championship matchup. I love this matchup and believe one side oozes value.

Ohio State | (21-8, 12-8 Big Ten)

After losing four straight games to finish the regular season, head coach Chris Holtmann and the Buckeyes rebounded to win three tournament games.

Ohio State is incredibly talented on the offensive end, ranking second in conference play in offensive efficiency and third in points per game. The Buckeyes one-two punch of Duane Washington and EJ Liddell is near-impossible to defend, as they combine to score 31.5 points per game on 44% shooting from the field.

But for all their offensive firepower, the Buckeyes are incredibly soft defensively. Ohio State is 10th in the conference in defensive efficiency, ninth in the conference in defensive eFG% and eighth in the conference in points per game against.

Therefore, the Buckeyes win by scoring a lot of points. They mostly score by running half-court offense through Washington and Liddell. But all-in-all, Holtmann’s offensive strategy has been effective.

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Illinois | (22-6, 16-4 Big Ten)

There isn’t a team in college basketball playing as well as the Fighting Illini.

With the win over Iowa in the semifinal, Brad Underwood and Co. have won six straight games and 13 of 14. During that stretch, the Illini are a ridiculous 11-3 against the spread.

Illinois is No. 3 in the AP Poll, essentially locked into a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and can clinch a Big Ten Tournament Championship.

The play of Andre Curbelo and Trent Frazier have really rounded out the Illini lineup. Before their emergence, Underwood was often over-reliant on his all-star duo of Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn, especially offensively. But when other players can step up and shoulder some of the scoring load, it gives Illinois different ways to win.

And winning is exactly what Illinois has done. In fact, the semifinal win was the 12th Quad 1 win for the Illini this season,  which is most in the country (Oklahoma State is second with 10).

Illinois is for real and is playing its best basketball at the right time.

Betting Analysis & Pick

Honestly, Ohio State is just Iowa but with an easier road to the conference championship game.

Similar to the Hawkeyes, the Buckeyes are elite offensively with serious defensive issues. In fact, Ohio State actually boasts slightly worse offensive and defensive efficiency metrics (111.9, 105.1) than Iowa (115.5, 103.4).

Ohio State finished 12-8 in the conference while Iowa finished 14-6, plus Ohio State went 9-7 in Quad 1 opportunities this season while Iowa went 8-7.

However, in the tournament, Iowa ran into Wisconsin and then Illinois, while the Buckeyes’ road to the Championship game consisted of:

  • Barely beating a hapless Minnesota team by four after leading by 14 with 2:27 left.
  • Barely beating Purdue in overtime after blowing an 18-point halftime lead, all while the Boilermakers shot 15-for-27 from the free throw line.
  • Barely beating a severely shorthanded Michigan team by one after leading by 13 with 4:19 left.

Part of the reason why the Buckeyes had value at 5/1 was because of the slightly easier draw.

However, Ohio State has really struggled closing out games. That should cause concern for Ohio State fans as the Buckeyes prepare to play the best closer in college basketball in Dosunmu.

This dominant Illinois team just dispatched Iowa with relative ease, winning by 11 as three-point favorites. There is literally zero reason to expect Illinois won’t similarly dispatch Ohio State.

Illinois is more talented and has played better basketball lately. I love Illinois in this  game, and I would play them up to -7.5.

Pick: Illinois -5.5 | Play up to -7.5

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