Ohio State vs. Illinois Basketball Prediction & Picks (2/24/22)

Matt Wiesenfeld

With just a few games left on the schedule, Illinois has a chance of capturing a Big Ten regular-season crown. They are a half-game behind Purdue and Wisconsin so they can’t afford to lose a game they are supposed to win, including tonight’s home matchup with Ohio State.

The Buckeyes go into tonight’s game in Champaign not playing their best ball. Their NCAA Tournament inclusion seems secure but last week they lost to Iowa and needed overtime to beat Indiana, both at home. That is not the profile of a team peaking at the end of the season.

Ohio State’s best games have come at home this season, including an impressive win over Duke. If they can tackle Mount Kofi in this game their resume would get a major bump.

Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Illinois Fighting Illini College Basketball Matchup Info and Betting Odds

Matchup Information

  • Game Matchup: Ohio State Buckeyes (17-7, 10-5 Big Ten, 4th in the Big Ten) vs. Illinois Fighting Illini (19-7, 12-4 Big Ten, 3rd in the Big Ten)
  • Venue & Location: State Farm Center (Champaign, Illinois)
  • Date: Thursday, February 24, 2022
  • Time: 9:00 p.m. ET
  • TV: FS1

Betting Odds

  • Spread: Ohio State +6.5 (-110), Illinois -6.5 (-110)
  • Total: OVER 140.5 (-110), UNDER 140.5 (-110)
  • Moneyline: Ohio State +225, Illinois -275

Odds are via BetMGM.

Top Tier Talents Lead Illinois & Ohio State

The Big Ten is loaded with good teams and elite players. If you like the KenPom National Player of the Year rankings, then then you will find the Buckeyes’ EJ Liddell and the Illini’s Kofi Cockburn at #4 and #7 respectively. Two other Big Ten players are also in the top eight, in Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis and Iowa’s Keegan Murray.

Both Liddell and Cockburn flirted with the NBA Draft but decided to return to school to improve their NBA prospects. Neither player possesses elite NBA traits, but they are very strong candidates for recognition this season.

For Liddell, the challenge is what is he? He has a versatile offensive game, but he might be only six-foot-five when it comes down to it. At that size, it is going to be hard for him to guard in the NBA. He can score in multiple ways, and maybe he can carve out a role in the NBA like former Buckeye Jae’Sean Tate, who is now with the Rockets.

There are no such mysteries about Cockburn, he is quite simply the best power player in the college game. He is smart enough to play the angles and has a decent touch, but his game is physical, and few players can hold him off when he gets the ball where he wants it.

You can try and hack him and hope he misses as the free-throw line, but you might get hurt in the process.

These two players are big reasons both teams like their chances in March.

Support Leads to Success for Buckeyes and Illini

If you ask college hoops talking heads who they like more, Liddell or Cockburn, you will probably get a split in terms of the answer.

When it comes to supporting cast though, Illinois is much stronger in that area, and it is not even close.

Ohio State is enjoying Malaki Branham’s development over the course of his freshman season but is hard to see where they would feel comfortable going in a clutch situation if Liddell is stymied.

For Illinois, they have a group of veteran players that have made big shots all season long for them.

Trent Frazier, Alphonso Plummer and Jacob Grandison are all seniors, giving the team the kind of stability on the perimeter that few teams can match.

Plus, there is Andre Curbelo, the Illini’s second most talented player. He has been an enigma with injuries this season, but his absences have made this team stronger overall.

Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Illinois Fighting Illini Prediction

Illinois 78, Ohio State 69 (Illinois -6.5 & OVER 140.5)

This is going to be the first and only regular season meeting between these teams. The Big Ten is packed with quality teams though and sometimes I think we get “repeats” of games we have seen before. Even if the uniforms change.

With that in mind this game reminds me a lot of Illinois’ win over Wisconsin at the beginning of the month. The Badgers, like Ohio State, are a quality team with a singular player, Johnny Davis, that is among the best in the country.

Davis led his team with 22 points but Illinois’ defense, which is best in the conference, limited him to just 4-14 for the game (he did most of his damage at the line).

Liddell is a different kind of scorer than Davis because he doesn’t handle the ball as much, but I think the same approach will apply in terms of Illinois forcing an opponent to try and do too much, lowering his efficiency, and sinking his team in the process.

The other takeaway from that Wisconsin game was how good Illinois can be when they really focus on using Cockburn. He abused the Badgers inside to the tune of 37 points on just 19 shots.

Ohio State can try and counter with Joey Brunk, who has the size to bang with Cockburn. But that really takes them away from what they do best offensively. They tried matching size with another powerful team at Purdue, but Brunk’s shortcomings eventually held them back more than helped them.

The Buckeyes are a solid team but playing teams with size is going to be a challenge for a group whose best lineups don’t feature anyone over six-foot-eight. That is why they might have more success in the NCAA Tournament than in the Big Ten if the matchups are more favorable.

2022 NCAA Tournament Odds: Buy Now on Illinois

Illinois was around +2500 before the season started and you can get the Illini in a range of prices right now. I have seen +2000, all the way up to +3300.

At all of those numbers they are a very good value. They were definitely part of last year’s “What happened to the Big Ten?” when they lost to Loyola-Chicago in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. But this year’s team looks a little more focused and deeper than that group was.

If they win out the best price may have been lost, so now is the time.

More Articles You Might like

Latest on Betting News

It has been a miserable month for the Seattle Mariners, and things are unlikely to get any better tonight as they welcome AL Cy Young Award favorite Justin Verlander and the Houston Astros to T-Mobile Park. After just missing out on the MLB playoffs last season, the Mariners entered this season with hopes of finally