Ohio State Vs. Illinois: Odds, Picks, Predictions (1/24/23)

As we are nearly three quarters of the way through the season, pressure starts to mount up for teams who faced midseason struggles. One of those teams is the Ohio State Buckeyes, a feisty unit that currently sits at 11-8. Their opponent the Fighting Illini have hit some bumps in the road as well, making this a very intriguing matchup in terms of postseason seeding. Ohio State desperately needs to build some momentum. The question is, can they secure the road win?

Ohio State Vs. Illinois Odds

Oddsmakers don’t think so as they initially had this as a near pick’em by opening the Buckeyes as a +1.5 underdog on the road. Bettors are in agreement as well, backing Illinois up to as high as -3.5 as of writing. This comes as a bit of a surprise as most power ratings actually have Ohio State the slight favorite, making this line movement intriguing. It does need to be mentioned that they will be without forward Zed Key, one of their primary scorers who averages 12.1 points per game and could be a major reason why bettors are doubting their chances in this potential high scoring affair.

Speaking of scoring, oddsmakers believe points will be scored in a flash as they opened the total at 148. Bettors are a little more skeptic on the scoring opportunities, backing the under down to as low as 145.5. Ohio State has been an offensive juggernaut but are now dealing with an identity change without Key. Illinois has fared well on the offensive end as well but base a brunt of their success on their defensive prowess.

Ohio State Vs. Illinois Prediction & Pick

The Pick: Pass, monitor OSU’s offense without Zed Key

While Ohio State is loaded with offensive talent, this is still a pass for me as I want to see how their offense operates without Zed Key playing a major role. He is one of their three scorers in double figures, now forcing their secondary scoring to step up to fill his missing production. Not only his scoring will be sorely missed, but he was an efficient rebounder as well by averaging 8.1 rebounds per game.

Still, you got to play with who you have available. Ohio State does benefit from their other most productive players being bigs as well with both Brice Sensabaugh and Justice Sueing rounding out the rest of their top three as double digit scorers. They combine for 30.4 points per game as well as bringing in 10.2 rebounds. Without Key, we may see the Buckeyes opt in to the idea of using more sets revolved around Sensabaugh and Sueing while throwing an extra guard into the lineup to stretch the floor.

With extra ball handling guards manning the perimeter, Ohio State may slow down the pace and go after more half court sets instead. This does two key things for them as it gives them the ability to run screens and get their bigs in scoring position in the middle as well as limit the number of possessions their defense has to fare against. Illinois wants to play at a fast pace, ranking 65th in Adjusted Tempo per Kenpom while Ohio State is slightly below average.

Speaking of defense, that has been a weakness for the Buckeyes and a major reason for their late game collapses. They currently rank 83rd in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency and look to play potentially worse without Zed Key’s interior presence. An extra guard may help their perimeter defense by stretching out the line but will still be susceptible to interior play which gives me pause from back them.

Ohio State Vs. Illinois Key Matchups

With little interior help, how will Ohio State limit the Illini offense?

Illinois scoring production vs Ohio State interior defense

Even without Zed Key, all may not be lost for the Buckeyes as they benefit from the Fighting Illini being a horrid shooting unit. This limits the threat of them on the outside, allowing Ohio State to sag off and play help defense.

Not only can they slightly pack it in should Illinois fail to connect from deep early, but they can also play a little loose with the foul situation as Illinois is cold from the charity stripe. Illinois currently shoots a putrid 65.3% from the line, losing out on key points.


This is a pass for me as I want to see how Ohio State operates on both ends of the court without key player Zed Key.

Kody is a sports betting writer here at Lineups. He specializes in college sports as well as the NFL and NBA. He won’t quit believing in the Lions Super Bowl chances even when they are eliminated.

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