*Quick Picks are plays provided with shorter write-ups than usual. Information is intended to be condensed for more efficient consumption.*
Ohio State plays faster at home, as they average 69.4 possessions per home game compared to 67.4 possessions per road game. This bodes well for the over in this match-up with Illinois. The Fighting Illini have the 11th ranked defensive efficiency (out of 14 teams) in the conference, and are ranked number 1 in tempo in the Big Ten, per Ken Pom.
Ohio State has played 6 home games against teams ranked in the top 150 in average offensive possession length (uptempo teams/teams that shoot early in the shot clock). Average point total in those 6 games: 148 points exactly, including the 118 point game against Samford:
Penn State – 144
Michigan State – 163
Cleveland State – 151
Samford – 118
Bucknell – 144
IUPUI – 168
Illinois ranks 130th in average offensive possession length. Additionally, Illinois ranks higher in offensive efficiency than every team listed above except Michigan State. Meaning, Illinois is a better offensive team than 5 of those previous opponents, so they should, in theory, score more points/have more shot attempts than those teams against the Buckeyes.
In the previous game between these two back in December, the final score was 77-67 Buckeyes. This game was played in a neutral court, the United Center, in Chicago.
Ohio State shot 24-51 overall in that game and 6-17 from three. They attempted over 3 total field goals (54.5 FGA/g) and over 4 three-point field goals less than their season average (21.5 3FGA/g).
Illinois shot 19-58 overall and 6-19 from three. They attempted over 4 total field goals and 5 three-point field goals less than their season average of 62.4 and 24, respectively.
The first game had 59 combined free throws attempted. While I expect there to be a decent amount of free throws attempted in this game, I do not think it will get quite that high. But, these are the bottom two teams in terms of defensive free throw rate in the Big Ten, meaning, they put their opponents at the line at a high rate – OSU 39.1% FTA/FGA, ILL 45.2% FTA/FGA. So, it could happen. If it does, that only helps us even more.
Illinois has been playing much better offensively as of late. They scored 99, 79, 71 points in each of their last three games respectively, which were all wins at home. In their last three games away from home, the Fighting Illini put up 75(away-Minn), 78(neut-Maryland), 71(away-Iowa) points respectively. Their free throw shooting, and more importantly, their confidence, has improved as the year has gone on.
Both of these teams are able to force their opponents into a high number of turnovers. Illinois ranks number 1 in the Big Ten in turnover percentage (21.9%), while Ohio State ranks number 3 (19.1%). I expect both defenses to play the passing lanes and create easy buckets in transition.
When you combine Ohio State’s tendency to play faster at home with Illinois’s uptempo style and leaky defense, I believe, it will give you points. We saw these teams go at each other in a neutral location earlier this year and the total fell right on 144 despite poor shooting efforts from each team. With the way these teams have been playing lately, I see around 150-155 total points in this game. For these reasons, I like the over.
The Pick: Illinois @ Ohio State Over 144
10-4 in 14 home games this season
4-1 L5 as home favorite
3-0-1 L4 as favorite of 7-12.5 points
15-6 L21 Thursday games
4-1 L4 following ATS W
4-1 L5 Games
6-2 L8 as underdog
5-0 L5 as underdog of 7-12.5 points
5-1 L6 Thursday games
5-0 L5 following straight up win