Buckeyes open as short favorites vs. Illinois

Illinois will be looking to avenge an 87-81 home loss to Ohio St. when they collide for the rematch Saturday in Columbus.

No. 7 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Illinois Betting Preview

Line: Ohio State -1.5

Total: 151.5

Where: Value City Arena

When: Saturday, 3/6, at 4:00 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

No. 4 Illinois might have won three games without its National Player of the Year candidate, but all eyes will be on the status of Ayo Dosunmu heading into Saturday’s road tilt at No. 7 Ohio State.

Dosunmu, who is averaging 21.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists, has missed the last three games due to a broken nose and concussion protocol. He is listed as ‘day-to-day’ heading into Saturday afternoon’s showdown.

The Buckeyes have been trending in the opposite direction, losing three straight games. They have had almost a week off after losing to No. 9 Iowa last Sunday.

Circa Sports opened Ohio State as a 1.5-point favorite, which hints at Dosunmu being ‘doubtful’ in the minds of Circa’s oddsmakers. KenPom’s power ratings have Illinois as a one-point road favorite. The total opened at 151.5, which is up 6.5 points from the previous meeting between these teams—an 87-81 road win for Ohio State.

Illinois head coach Brad Underwood updated Dosunmu’s status when meeting with reporters during a Zoom call Friday.

“I haven’t seen him yet today to know,” Underwood said Friday morning. “When you go through the protocols there are various, there’s I don’t know how many steps. But you can’t rush those. You don’t question those. You just move forward. We’ll see what reaction is gone and how he handles those individual steps.”

The Illini played four games during an eight-day stretch, which was capped off with a 76-53 win at No. 2 Michigan on Tuesday. Dosunmu reportedly went through an individual workout on Wednesday and had “some participation” in practice on Thursday. He has been fitted for a protective mask that he will wear upon returning to game action.

Illinois was an underdog in games at No. 23 Wisconsin and No. 2 Michigan, but its other players stepped up with Dosunmu on the bench. Sophomore center Kofi Cockburn is averaging 17.5 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. He had a 15-point, 11-rebound double-double in the home loss to Ohio State earlier this season.

Senior guard Trent Frazier is also averaging in double figures, scoring 10.9 PPG. He is coming off a 22-point performance at Michigan. Freshmen guards Adam Miller and Andre Curbelo are both adding 8.4 PPG. Illinois is listed at No. 9 in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency ratings. 

They will be facing an Ohio State defense that has been average, coming in at No. 79 in adjusted efficiency. The Buckeyes are led by an offense that is listed at No. 4 in the country. They shoot 36.4% from the 3-point line and 52.8% from inside the arc.

Their last few performances have not been representative, though. They were held to 67 points by Michigan State and 57 points by Iowa. Ohio State had scored at least 72 points in every game since mid-January prior to this recent cold stretch.

Sophomore forward E.J. Liddell leads the Buckeyes with 15.9 points and 6.7 RPG. The Illinois native poured in 26 points and grabbed seven boards in the first meeting with the Illini.

Junior guard Duane Washington Jr. is scoring 15.3 PPG, but he is only shooting 39.9% from the floor. He had 30 points in the 92-87 loss to Michigan two weeks ago. Junior forward Justice Sueing is adding 10.3 points and 5.4 RPG.

Illinois is 4-1 against the spread in its last five games. However, the Illini have only picked up one win in their last 10 trips to Columbus. The Buckeyes are 5-0 ATS in their last five Saturday home games.

The total has gone ‘over’ in four of Illinois’ last five games. Ohio State and Illinois have played ‘over’ in four of their last six head-to-head meetings.

The pick: Ohio State -1.5

Circa Sports took a commendable risk by putting up a line for this game on Friday afternoon with Dosumnu’s status up in the air. Their line suggests that Dosumnu is unlikely to play many minutes, if any, which is my thought as well. Underwood does not want to risk any further injury to his superstar with the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA Tournament on deck. These teams are trending in opposite directions, but Ohio State is a tough matchup for Illinois. The Buckeyes have the height to counter Cockburn in the paint and they have an experience edge. This is a game Ohio State really needs to win, whereas Illinois is coming off its biggest win of the season. The Illini are a young bunch—especially if Dosunmu is out—so I could see them falling victim to this natural letdown situation.

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