Selection Sunday is upon us along with the Big Ten Championship Tournament Finals between the Ohio State Buckeyes and Illinois Fighting Illini, so I’ve prepared the best betting pick and odds for this marquee showdown at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
The Fighting Illini opened as firm 5-point favorites on William Hill Sportsbook, while the totals sit at 151.5 points. They split a two-game regular-season series against the Buckeyes, suffering an 87-81 loss as 7-point home favorites along with a 73-68 victory as 2-point road favorites.
The Buckeyes stunned top-seeded Michigan in the semis
The Ohio State Buckeyes (21-8; 12-8 Conf.) opened the Big Ten tourney with the second-round 79-75 victory over Minnesota. They beat Purdue 87-78 in overtime in the quarterfinals, while the semifinal clash against the top-seeded Michigan Wolverines was another nail-biter.
The Buckeyes had an 11-point lead with 3:19 to go in the second half, but the Wolverines rallied to make a one-point game with 50 seconds left on the clock. We saw no baskets in that span, and Michigan had the final shot, but Mike Smith’s jumper was long.
Junior G Duane Washington dropped 24 points on Michigan along with six boards and four assists, while sophomore F E.J. Liddell added 18 points and five rebounds. This duo has led the way for Ohio State all season, combining for 31.5 points per game.
The Buckeyes enter the Big Ten championship game as the No. 9 in the NCAA NET Rankings. They score 122.7 points per 100 possessions (4th in the nation) and surrender 96.0 in a return (74th).
The Fighting Illini search for their seventh straight victory
The Illinois Fighting Illini (22-6; 16-4 Conf.) are rolling on a six-game winning streak following a comfortable 82-71 victory over the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Big Ten tourney semifinals. Sophomore center Kofi Cockburn dominated in the paint with 26 points and eight rebounds, while junior guard Ayo Dosunmu posted a line of 18 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds.
The Fighting Illini controlled the game for all 40 minutes, executing very well on the offensive end despite 3-for-15 shooting from beyond the arc. They make 48.5% of their field goals and went 15-for-20 at the line while handing out 22 assists.
Ayo Dosunmu is enjoying a wonderful season, tallying 21.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game. He drives the Fighting Illini’s offense that ranks seventh in the country in points per 100 possessions (119.4) and field goal percentage (50.1%). Also, they are 24th in 3-point percentage (37.9%).
On the other side of the ball, Illinois yields 87.4 points per 100 possessions (5th in the country) on 41.1% shooting from the field (61st) and 32.7% from downtown (125th). The Fighting Illini are No. 4 in the NCAA NET Rankings.
- 2-5 ATS in the last seven games overall
- 8-19 ATS in the last 27 games played in March
- 6-0 ATS in the last six games overall
- 6-0 ATS in the last six games as favorites of five or fewer points
I’m expecting a close contest, so buying a few points is a must. The Fighting Illini are a better defensive team than Ohio State, and that should be a key factor down the stretch, so I’m backing Illinois as a 3-point fave.
Both teams have plenty of dangerous offensive weapons, but Illinois is certainly more capable of playing aggressive defense for most of 40 minutes than Ohio State. Anyway, this clash can easily go either way. It’s a championship game, while the Buckeyes and Fighting Illini have already beaten each other once this term.
Pick: Take Illinois -3.0 at -150
Back in January, Ohio State upset Illinois in what was a proper high-scoring affair. Just eight days ago, they combined for 141 points, but both teams shot below 65.0% from the free-throw line, and the Fighting Illini missed nine of their 24 free throws.
I have to go with the over. Illinois prefers to play at a fast pace, averaging 70.8 possessions per 40 minutes, 3.7 more than Ohio State. The Fighting Illini will certainly look to speed up things against the Buckeyes who have had some problems with their transition defense.
Pick: Go over 151.5 points at -110