13th-seeded Ohio State went into Friday’s game against Michigan State without standout freshman Brice Sensabaugh, but the Buckeyes weren’t any worse off. The dream is still alive for Ohio State, at least until Purdue does something about it. The Boilermakers are 7-point favorites against the Buckeyes, with the over/under 134.5 points.
Let’s make predictions for Saturday’s Big Ten semifinal matchup and take a look at why Ohio State’s run could end here.
Ohio State vs. Purdue Prediction
This run has been tremendous for Ohio State. The Buckeyes have played without pressure, unheralded players have stepped up, and a star has been born in freshman Bruce Thornton. There’s a good chance the run ends on Saturday.
Ohio State is not a high-scoring team, something that’s remained true even over these last three games. Whether Thornton can keep scoring the way he has lately is anyone’s guess, but with Sensabaugh either out or limited, there aren’t many other reliable sources of offense here.
On the defensive end, Zach Edey has the potential to cause problems the Buckeyes haven’t seen since, well, the last time they faced Purdue.
I’m not too confident in Ohio State’s ability to keep up with Purdue if Edey plays like we know he can against this team. The line is pretty big line in favor of the Boilermakers, but I still think they get it done and win this one comfortably on Edey’s back.
Ohio State vs. Purdue Prediction: Purdue -7
Ohio State vs. Purdue Odds
Purdue enters as a 7-point favorite, sitting at -315 on the moneyline. The over/under is 134.5 points.
The Boilermakers are a likely No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but they haven’t always looked the part lately. Oddsmakers are still believers. Even if Ohio State can’t pull off another upset, what are the Buckeyes’ chances of overperforming again?
Ohio State vs. Purdue Key Matchups
Here are some key matchups that could decide Ohio State vs. Purdue.
Bruce Thornton vs. Purdue Defense
With or without Sensabaugh, there is no player more important for Ohio State right now than freshman Bruce Thornton. Thornton has been a solid starter for the Buckeyes all year, but he’s turned it on of late similar to the way Malaki Branham did last season.
Thornton closed his regular season with three 19+ point performances in his last four games, and he’s kept that momentum going in the Big Ten Tournament with games of 15, 17, and 21 points.
If Sensabaugh is out, it’s going to be critical for Thornton to score at a high level. Even if Sensabaugh plays through a knee issue, there probably isn’t enough offensive depth to survive a regression to the mean by Thornton.
Zach Edey vs. Ohio State Lack of Size
It feels like the key to every Purdue game is how well a team can limit – not stop, but limit – Zach Edey. Ohio State couldn’t limit Edey when these two faced off in February. The big man posted 26 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 blocks, powering the Boilermakers to a 27-point win. Edey was quieter in a two-point Purdue win over Ohio State in January but still made a big impact, finishing with 16 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 assists.
The Buckeyes have had a middle of the pack defense inside the three-point line, allowing opponents to shoot 49.4%. Without the injured Zed Key, 6’7” Justice Sueing is the tallest player among the starters, with 6’11” Felix Okpara also getting some minutes lately. That’s a potential mismatch against 7’4” Edey, who has overpowered opposing frontcourts all season, and it’s a big reason for my Ohio State vs. Purdue prediction.
Yes, the rest of Purdue’s team matters and needs to play well, but an Ohio State team that doesn’t put up huge numbers on the offensive end will have its hands full against the likely national player of the year.