NCAA Basketball: Ohio State/Illinois Preview, Odds and Prediction - 03/06/2021

by Big Al Staff

ESPN features a Big Ten showdown between two of the top ten teams in the country at 4 PM ET.

Illinois dominated number-two ranked Michigan in Ann Arbor in a 76-53 upset win as an 8.5-point underdog on Tuesday. Brad Underwood was without Ayo Dosunmu for the third-straight game but got big-time performances from his supporting cast. Senior Trent Frazier scored 22 points to improve upon his 10.9 points-per-game scoring average. Andre Curbelo added another 17 points with the freshman averaging 8.4 points-per-game this season. Kofi Cockburn contributed 12 points. The 7’0 sophomore averages 17.5 points-per-game while adding 9.8 rebounds-per-game. The Fighting Illini have won ten of their last eleven games.

Dosunmu is out indefinitely with a broken nose. The junior point guard is averaging 21.0 points-per-game, 6.3 rebounds-per-game, and 5.3 assists-per-game. Dosunmu and Cockburn were two of five returning starters from the team last year that finished 21-10.

Illinois ranks fourth in the nation by the Associated Press with a 19-6 record. The Illini earned an impressive non-conference victory against Duke in December. Underwood’s team is second in the Big Ten with a 15-4 mark with wins against Iowa, Wisconsin, Purdue, Indiana (twice), and the Wolverines. Illinois has conference losses to these Buckeyes, Michigan State, Rutgers, and Maryland and non-conference losses to Baylor and Missouri.

The Fighting Illini are ninth in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency at kenpom. They rank 18th nationally with a 38.3% shooting percentage from 3-point land, and they rank 20th with a 55.2% mark inside the arc. Illinois is eighth nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency using the kenpom metrics. They limit their opponents to rebounding 22.1% of their missed shots, 13th nationally. Their opponents make 44.7% of their 2-point shots, ranking 17th nationally.

Ohio State has lost three in a row in eight days after their 73-57 upset loss at home to Iowa as a 2-point favorite on Sunday. E.J. Liddell scored 15 points in a losing effort. The sophomore leads the team that goes eleven deep on their bench with a 15.9 points-per-game scoring average. Justice Sueing added 10 points, with the junior scoring 10.3 points-per-game. Duane Washington only had 7 points to dip his scoring average down to a 15.3 points-per-game scoring clip.

Chris Holtmann returned five of the nine players that played at least 10 minutes per game last year for the group that finished 21-10 with nine wins in their final twelve Big Ten games. Holtmann then added three impact transfers in the offseason: Abel Porter started at point guard at Utah State; Justice Sueing scored 14.6 points-per-game as a sophomore at California; Seth Towns was a former Ivy League Player of the Year at Harvard.

The Buckeyes opened the Big Ten season by losing two of their first three games before winning ten of their next eleven games to elevate to fourth in the AP poll with talk of them earning a number one seed in the NCAA tournament. Ohio State has since lost to Michigan, Michigan State, and then the Hawkeyes in the gauntlet that is the Big Ten schedule. They have fallen to fifth place in the highly-competitive conference with a 12-7 record. Ohio State has lost to Minnesota, Northwestern, and twice to Purdue on top of their recent setbacks. The Buckeyes have defeated Purdue while notching two wins apiece against defeated Wisconsin, Maryland, and Rutgers. They also have a resume-building victory against UCLA in non-conference play. With an 18-7 overall record, Ohio State ranks seventh in the current Associated Press poll.

The Buckeyes are fourth in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to the numbers at kenpom. They are 29th in free throw rate. Ohio State is 79th in adjusted defensive efficiency at kenpom. Holtmann’s team has fallen to ninth in the Big Ten with an opponent's effective field goal percentage of 49.9%.

Ohio State won the first meeting between these two teams on January 16th in an 87-81 upset victory in Champagne as a 3.5-point underdog. BetAnySports lists the Buckeyes as a 2-point favorite with the total set at 151.

Computer prediction:  Ohio State 77 Illinois 72

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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