The Fighting Illini will take on the Ohio State Buckeyes in a Big Ten battle on Wednesday. This game is considered the Big Ten home opener for the Illini, but the game will be played at the United Center in Chicago. The Buckeyes are expected to contend for a Big Ten title this season, while the Illini should finish near the bottom of the conference.
Ohio State comes into this game with a 7-1 record, and are ranked 19th in the latest AP poll. The Buckeyes were able to beat Minnesota in their Big 10 opener by a score of 79-59. Illinois is off to a miserable 2-6 start to the season, but have several close losses to some really good teams. The Fighting Illini were blown out in their Big Ten opener by Nebraska, losing by a score of 75-60. Ohio State is a six point favorite in this matchup with Illinois.
Youth Hurting Illinois
Illinois coach Brad Underwood has a roster full of inexperienced and young players this season. The lack of experience has kept the Illini from winning several of their early games, but Illinois has shown signs of improvement this season. The team is averaging 77.4 points per game this season, which is way up from a season ago. Illinois is one of the better passing teams in the country, averaging 16.5 assists per contest. Defense has been a major issue for Illinois, as they are giving up over 77 points per game.
Trent Frazier is not a newcomer on this Illini team, and he is leading them in scoring this season with 14.7 points per game. Center Giorgi Bezhanishvili looks like a future star at Illinois, but he must learn how to play without fouling. Bezhanishvili is averaging 10.0 points and 4.9 rebounds per game this season. Illinois is one of the smallest teams in college basketball, and that could hurt them badly against the big Ohio State team.
Wesson Brothers Leading Buckeyes
A pair of brothers have been the offensive stars for the Buckeyes so far this season. Sophomore Kaleb Wesson is averaging a team high 14.5 points and 6.1 rebounds for Ohio State this season. His older brother Andre is off to a great start to his junior season, averaging 8.1 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. The Wesson brothers have plenty of support, but they are clearly who make the team go.
A big reason for the early season success for Ohio State has been the play of their defense. The Buckeyes are giving up just 60.1 points per game this season, which is the 18th best defensive scoring average in the country. Ohio State has held all but one opponent to 62 points or less this season, but they face a fast-paced offense in this game.
Illini Lose Close Game
Ohio State is clearly the better team in this game, but Illinois has been close to pulling off some upsets this season. The Fighting Illini continue to show improvement under Brad Underwood, and they usually play well in Chicago. The Buckeyes will get their second straight Big Ten victory, but it will be tight. Take the points and bet Illinois +6.0 over the Buckeyes in this game.