#15 Illini Basketball vs #22 Ohio State: Stats, FYIs, Metrics, Picks


The No. 15 Illinois Fighting Illini basketball team will host No. 22 Ohio State on Thursday at 8 p.m. in an Orange Out at State Farm Center. It’s a game that will have huge Big Ten title implications as Illinois enters the final two weeks of the regular season at 19-7 overall and 12-4 in the Big Ten.

The Illini are one-half game out of first with four games left to play. Purdue sits atop the league table with a 13-4 record in Big Ten play. Illinois and Wisconsin are right behind at 12-4, while Ohio State follows with a 9-5 record. Let’s preview this blockbuster match-up by looking at all the requisite match-ups.

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ESPN Matchup predictor sees this Illini basketball team having a 73% chance of winning this one, and that, obviously, means the Buckleyes only have a 27% of getting the W in this forecast. If you want to bet with a 150 casino bonus on this game, the Illini are -7.5, which seems like a smart bet.

Illinois has been a solid favorite to back on their homecourt this season, while OSU has been lacking as a road dog trying to cover.

Pizza the Hut

If the first rule of Pizza Hut Fight Club is “don’t talk about fight club,” then well, Illini basketball coach Brad Underwood just doesn’t conform to the rules. In his pregame presser ahead of the win at Michigan State on Saturday, Underwood said that where he went to high school, in McPherson, Kansas, whenever there was going to be a fight, they went to the local pizza hut.

Why Pizza Hut was the chosen dueling ground, who knows, but Underwood made the remarks in reference to the fact that he knew the game at MSU was going to be slugfest. It indeed was, and after it was over, with Illinois victorious, the Illini basketball community on social media had a lot of fun with it.

We don’t even have the time and space to show all the funny and interesting postings out there, relating to this narrative.

Metrics and What Not

As of Feb. 20, the Big Ten has eight teams in the top 43 of the NET Rankings, including seven of the top 35. That’s better than any other league. Purdue leads the way at No. 9, followed by Illini basketball at No. 14. Ohio State checks in at No. 18.

A national-best eight Big Ten squads are among the top 45 of KenPom’s Feb. 20 ratings. Purdue again leads the way at No. 13, with Illinois No. 15, Iowa No. 16 and OSU No. 22.

illini basketball

The Big Ten has five teams projected as top five seeds, the most of any conference, in the latest ESPN bracket projection. Purdue is slotted as a No. 2 seed, while Wisconsin and Illini basketball are No. 4 seeds, Ohio State is a 5.

The Pick

Not saying that this Illini basketball team will win the league this year, but they’ll be in the thick of it until the very last day. The orange and blue will not let this potential signature win at home get away.

Illini basketball 77, OSU 69

illini basketball

Also, if you don’t like my takes, or my pick, well, I’ll meet you at the Pizza Hut parking lot in Palos Hills, Illinois. It’s on the corner of Southwest Highway and 111th street.

Paul M. Banks is the owner/manager of The Bank (TheSportsBank.Net) and author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America,” as well as “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry.”

He has regularly appeared in WGNSports Illustrated and the Chicago Tribune, and co-hosts the After Extra Time podcastFollow him on Twitter and Instagram

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