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Ohio State vs: Illinois: NCAA betting odds, preview, and pick

Profile Picture: Dan Halverson

Dan Halverson

February 24th, 2022

Two of the top four teams in the Big Ten face off Thursday evening, when the Ohio State Buckeyes travel to Champagne to take on the Illinois Fighting Illini.

Fri, February 25 2022, 2:00 AM







O 140.5

Ohio State






U 140.5

Ohio State is 17-7 straight up on the season and fourth in the conference standings with their 10-5 league record. They are 13-11 against the spread on the season and ranked 22nd in the nation.

The home team Illini are second in the conference at 19-7 overall and 12-4 in conference play, just a half-game behind league-leading Purdue. Illinois is just 12-14 against the spread, ranks 15th in the nation, and enters as a six-point favorite.

Let’s dive into this excellent matchup between these Top 25 teams.

Good Scorers, Slow Pace

Both of these teams feature a 1-2 punch offensive tandem that is as formidable as any you’ll find in college basketball.

Ohio State has veteran forward E.J. Liddell leading the way with 19.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. The junior is listed at 6’7” but has great strength in the post and crafty moves that allow him to get points against larger defenders.

He is complemented by former Ohio Mr. Basketball Malaki Branham, who is quickly developing into a potential star for the Buckeyes and averages 45.9% from deep.

Liddell will certainly face a taller defender in this matchup when he comes up against one of the Big Ten’s best players, center Kofi Cockburn. Cockburn is the only player in the country averaging at least 20 and 10, as he contributes 21.7 points and 11.2 rebounds per game on the year. At 7’0”, the powerful Cockburn has a clear size advantage and certainly plays the traditional center role.

His partner, Trent Frazier, averages 12.4 points per game and leads the team with four assists per game.

As talented as these teams are offensively, however, each team prefers to run a slower pace and allow their talented post players the opportunity to find their position and make the most of the possession. Each team is ranked top 20 nationally in offensive efficiency, but Illinois checks in at 193rd in possessions per 40 minutes, while Ohio State comes in 293rd.

Ohio State and Illinois Betting Trends

  • Ohio State is 7-2 against the spread in their last nine games
  • Ohio State is 5-2 ATS in their last seven games against a team with a winning record
  • The Under is 4-1 in Ohio State’s last five games
  • The road team is 6-1 ATS in the last seven games between these teams
  • The underdog is 8-2 against the spread in the last 10 games between these teams

Crafty Liddell does enough

It is clear on paper and on film that Cockburn is a mismatch in this game, but the Buckeyes are a talented group with plenty of size to put on the court for team rebounding. Kyle Young stands 6’8”, Branham is an oversized 6’5” guard, Zed Key is 6’8”, and Liddell has spent his whole career playing against opponents bigger than him.

Liddell will be the key player in this matchup, as he can slow things down and provide the Buckeyes the most efficient shot. With points likely at a premium thanks to the slow tempo both teams prefer to play at, six points in a conference matchup that has favored the road underdogs in this series looks very attractive.

These teams are separated by less than two points in KenPom’s efficiency rankings. Cockburn and home court have inflated the line, but we should be in store for a close one.

Score prediction: Illinois 68, Ohio State 65

NCAAB pick: Ohio State +6

Ohio State vs. Illinois Pick powered by The Quant Edge

Our predictive engine is calling for the Buckeyes to cover the spread.