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This time of the year is hot for the Big Ten and tonight is no exception. Feast your eyes on #22 Ohio State hitting the streets. Tonight they are in for a top-tier conference battle with #15 Illinois. Illinois represents a 6-point home favorite this evening with the total standing at 140.5.
Tonight’s players still have a shot at a regular season conference title. They’ll need a little help to get there, but Ohio State is just one back in the loss column to Purdue, Wisconsin, and Illinois. The good news its they’ve played two fewer games than Purdue and Wisky and one fewer than Illinois. There is room to crowd the tippy-top of the standings.
It’s been 347 days since these two last met. In the Big Ten Tournament championship, Illinois won 91-88 in overtime after both teams combined for 17 threes. Six of Illinois’ squadron went for double-figures in that game. Four of those guys are still on this team: Kofi Cockburn, Trent Frazier, Andre Curbelo, Da’Monte Williams with Cockburn and Frazier averaging double-figures on the season. Illinois hasn’t calmed down much this season on offense either. Illinois is dropping 76 points a night and shooting 45.5% from the field.
Ohio State has lost seven games this season but only three have been by seven points or more. Their most recent loss was a 13-pointer on the road at Iowa but in that game the Buckeyes shot 18% from three! I find it very difficult to believe that kind of slump happens again. Ohio State shoots 47.9% from the floor and are in the top-30 in three point field goal percentage.
As much as I’ve glowed about Kofi Cockburn, E.J. Liddell has been mammoth for Ohio State this season. He’s averaged a shade under twenty a game and crashes the boards really well grabbing a tick under eight a game. He’ll be the matchup of the night against the Illinois stud if and when they meetup. Zed Key will likely be the predominant 1-v-1 man for the Buckeyes. However let’s watch that matchup. When Key went against other actual large fellas this season, he has gotten into some foul trouble.
Cockburn has dominated most of his opponents this season partly because of that size. Tonight he will be the towering force that’s got thirty-plus pounds on everyone around him. A key will be him and the crew grabbing a bunch of Ohio State missed shots. The Buckeyes have been getting worked in that aspect lately. The Buckeyes MUST crash the boards significantly better to have a shott to pull of this road win. That or hit all of the three-pointers.
I think this game is ripe for Illinois to blow the doors off of Ohio State at some point. There are only eighteen teams that average more rebounds than Illinois. When playing on their own gym, Illinois grabs even more. There’s a significant matchup problem for Ohio State too against Cockburn. I think both teams score and score for a while. I also think Liddell will have a really good game. Tonight I will grab Illinois at -6 and I’ll take the over 140.5 too.