The wheels have fallen off a bit for an Ohio State team hoping to get over the hump and past the first weekend of the tournament this year. The Buckeyes have lost four consecutive games, including two at home, and badly need to bounce back.
Nebraska has made progress this season but is coming off two blowout losses. Can the ‘Huskers recover at home and extend Ohio State’s losing streak?
Let’s take a look at the odds and make some picks and predictions for Wednesday’s matchup in Lincoln.
Ohio State vs. Nebraska Odds
Ohio State enters as a 5.5-point road favorite, sitting at -240 on the moneyline. The over/under is set at 138.5 points.
Ohio State would be an even larger favorite if it wasn’t entering on a bad losing streak, but the Buckeyes are still clearly the better team here. The question is whether Nebraska’s home-court advantage means something, as well as whether the defense can take advantage of a struggling offense and keep this game close all the way through.
Ohio State vs. Nebraska Prediction & Pick
Ohio State hasn’t given anyone much reason to believe over the past two weeks, but the Buckeyes are healthy again with Zed Key getting back to form and have too much talent to consistently lose like this. Having a nightly threat for 20+ points in freshman Brice Sensabaugh is also helpful.
I’m trusting Ohio State’s offense to bounce back against this shaky Cornhuskers defense and win comfortably on the road.
Ohio State vs. Nebraska Key Matchups
Ohio State was one of the nation’s most balanced teams earlier in the season, but the offense has fallen on tough times during this latest slide. A Buckeyes team averaging 78 points per game has scored under 70 points in three of its last four games.
The one steady piece has been freshman Brice Sensabaugh, who is averaging just north of 20 points per game over his last eight. He had a tough night against Minnesota, but Sensabaugh is about as reliable as a freshman can be on the offensive end.
The rest of the offense has struggled badly. This group was shut down by Rutgers, including veteran Justice Sueing who has been pretty reliable this season. A lack of contributions from depth pieces continues to be a major concern for Ohio State.
One reason to be encouraged is the return of Zed Key. A Buckeyes team that doesn’t really have a replacement for Key’s presence in the frontcourt suffered during his short absence, but he’s done well off the bench since his return and should be in line for an even larger role against Nebraska.
That gives Ohio State another option when everyone other than Sensabaugh isn’t hitting shots. Nebraska is also a middle-of-the-road team defending the three, a much easier test than a Rutgers team that defends it so well.
Ohio State defends the three well, but Nebraska shoots just 30.1% from beyond the arc and doesn’t beat teams with the three. In fact, the Cornhuskers have just two players averaging more than one three-pointer per game.
Nebraska can only keep this game competitive by taking advantage of the Buckeyes’ offensive struggles and playing strong defense. Defense helped keep Fred Hoiberg’s team competitive early in the season, but Nebraska has allowed 73+ points in each of its last four games. This is an average defense right now, at best, though the ‘Huskers benefit from fouling at one of the lowest rates in the country.
On the offensive end, Derrick Walker is the player to watch. The Nebraska forward is averaging 14.1 points and will be a major factor for Key near the basket. Walker and Sam Griesel are the two notable offensive pieces for this offensively challenged Nebraska team, and both do most of their work inside the three-point line.