In another premiere matchup between two top 25 Big Ten teams, the Illinois Fighting Illini will hit the road and take on the Ohio State Buckeyes Thursday night. Both teams are 20-9 overall on the season, but the Illini are at 12-6 in league play while the Buckeyes are slightly below them at 10-8.
Currently, three teams sit atop the Big Ten standings at 13-6, and none of them are playing tonight, which means we could go into the weekend with a four-way tie atop the standings.
Both teams are currently streaking in the right direction as we come down the home stretch to Selection Sunday. The Buckeyes have won three in a row, including wins over Maryland last week and Michigan this past weekend. Illinois are winners of four straight overall after coming out of a four-game skid.
This meeting will be the only time these two teams play barring a rendezvous in the Big Ten or NCAA Tournament. These two have met eight times in Columbus since 2010-11, and the Buckeyes are 7-1 during that stretch; however, the single loss came the last time the Illini visited, which was February of last season.
Ohio State is a six-point favorite at home, with the over/under set at 132.
Fighting on the road
Illinois has been very successful at home this season, as we all know, but they have been a good team to bet on in true road games as well. The Illini are 6-5 straight up in true road games this season and 7-4 against the spread.
As a dog, they are a solid 4-6 straight up on the season as well. Their stifling defense tends to relax a bit on the road as they have hit the over in six of their 11 games on the road. In recent games, the Illini are 5-2 ATS in their last seven games on the road.
Ohio State has really turned it around
The Buckeyes were the darlings of college basketball during the out of conference schedule and then seemingly fell apart in the first half of Big Ten play. Since the third week of January, they have returned to their earlier form, going 8-2 since Jan. 26 and found themselves back in the top 25.
The Buckeyes are still a sparkling 18-11 against the spread on the season and 15-2 straight up at home. Their 18-6 record straight up as the favorite is a little concerning, but most of that damage was done early in league play.
Ohio State is 5-1 ATS in its last six games and 5-0 ATS in its last five at home. They have gone over in five of their last seven games but under in 17 of their 29 games on the season.
When in doubt, take the home team, right?
My initial reaction is to take Ohio State. They are more talented, arguably better coached, and they are playing at home. The Illini, however, have been impressively feisty on the road this season. Kofi Cockburn can match up with almost any big man in the league, and Ayo Dosunmu has been on a tear recently.
That said, this Ohio State team is a force when they are locked in, and that is exactly what they have been for the better part of six weeks. I am going to lay the six and take the over as long as it stays at 132, I wouldn’t go any higher than that.