Ohio State’s back is against the wall and Thad Matta’s team likely has one more game to write the ship if it wants to remain relevant in the landscape of both the Big-10 and nationally. Four straight losses in the conference have Ohio State reeling. Fortunately, a home tilt against a conference foe struggling nearly every bit as much as itself might be all the Buckeyes need to flip the switch on a season that’s quickly getting away from them.
OSU has opened up as a 10-point favorite at local Las Vegas books for Thursday’s showdown with the Fightin’ Illini. One team will snap a four game losing streak and available intellect points to the home team to be that side. Illinois enters Value City Arena vulnerable and seemingly outmatched by an Ohio State team that doesn’t figure to be susceptible to much of what the Illini throw at opponents.
The Buckeyes know the importance of this game. A brutally tough loss at Michigan State bled into a bad home loss against a pretty darn good Iowa team. The two-game spinner sent OSU off the tracks for two road games against Minnesota and then Nebraska. It’s definitely an argument that Ohio State was just as desperate to get a win in any of the previous four losses but there’s something about returning home that just isn’t possible to simulate on the road. The better team, playing at home in a situation that doesn’t get more desperate than this, Ohio State will come out crisp, clean and hungry to put any chance of an upset out of sight and out of mind. This is a spot where Aaron Craft does anything and everything his team needs him to do, which typically feeds off pretty well throughout the entire roster. Craft’s energy should spark the athletes from The Ohio State: Lenzelle Smith Jr., Sam Thompson and especially Amir Williams. The big man matchup will tell lots about how the game will go from the first ten minutes. If Williams simply engages himself, there isn’t much that Ekey should be able to do to produce. As usual with Williams, this is apparent early.
This game should turn into a lot of forced attempts from both Rice and Abrams who won’t get much help from the front line. Nor should they. Ohio State is the dominant side in this one. With backdoor garbage time always in play with a double-digit number, play the first half.
Free Pick: Ohio State First Half -5.5