ACC/Big Ten Basketball Picks for Ohio State vs. Louisville

Willie Bee

Tuesday, December 2, 2014 1:11 PM GMT

The ACC/Big Ten Challenge continues Tuesday night, and our handicapper has a preview plus a free college basketball pick for the clash in Louisville between the Cardinals and Ohio State.

Louisville Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino ran afoul of the PC police last week for a comment he made after his club demolished Savannah State by 61 points. As reporters queried Pitino in their roundabout ways about possibly running the score up, he joked about doing all in his power to keep from humiliating the Tigers.

"I mean, we played four white guys and an Egyptian," Pitino noted about win No. 699 in his coaching career, the 700th coming two days later against Cleveland State.

Those offended are simply people looking to be offended, and there's no doubt Louisville's next opponent will make it very tough for Pitino to get his 701st victory. That's because his No. 5 Cardinals are taking on the No. 13/14 Ohio State Buckeyes as part of this year's ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Tuesday's tussle will be carried by ESPN following the Syracuse/Michigan clash, and Sean McDonough haters are advised to hit the MUTE button on their remotes around 9:30 PM (ET).

College basketball bettors are being asked to give up 8 points to play the Cards at home; SBR's live NCAA basketball odds will have the total once it comes out.

It's Louisville's first chance to represent the ACC in this annual series, and the ninth time the Cardinals have squared off against the Buckeyes. The previous eight meetings have been split down the middle with five of those games taking place in Louisville. Roughly 143 months have passed since they last got together, the Cardinals posting a 72-64 overtime win in Columbus where they erased a 14-point halftime deficit to beat Ohio State.

 

Buckeyes Making 1st Trip Away From Home
Thad Matta needs 318 more W's to reach the 700-win plateau after OSU's victory over James Madison this past Friday. It wasn't necessarily a pretty win over a team they were favored to beat by 23, leaving their backers just 1-3 against the spread in the early going, but it did get the Buckeyes off to a 5-0 start straight up.

Ohio State turnovers helped the Dukes stay inside the spread, but they never could make the Buckeyes really pay by missing 17 of 21 treys. Matta's troops gave it away 15 times, well above their season average (11.8), guard D'Angelo Russell accounting for four of the turnovers. The freshman has committed 11 of his 14 giveaways in just two of Ohio State's five contests to date, but still leads the Buckeyes with an 18.0 scoring average.

This will be the first bit of travel on Ohio State's travel agenda, and in fact, the only time the Buckeyes will play in a hostile gym until January 6. They travel to Chicago about three weeks from now to take on North Carolina in a pre-Christmas tourney, but come right back home with a couple of matchups around New Year's to open Big Ten action.

 

The Ville's Defense Vs. OSU's Offense
Ohio State is second in the country hitting more than 56% from the field, and even if the Buckeyes shoot 41% as they did vs. James Madison, that will be a huge improvement over what Savannah State and Cleveland State combined in Louisville's last two games. The Tigers and Vikings went 23-103 (22%) overall, 4-35 (11%) from beyond the arc.

We obviously have to credit some of those numbers with their opponents' efforts, but at the same time, this is a very good Louisville defense. Nobody gets to the glass better than the Cardinals, and they're especially strong on the offensive end where Pitino's kids have needed to take advantage of second chances. The Cards are hitting just 43% of their shots, putting them in the middle of the country, and only 24% from long range, which has them in the bottom 10 of the land.

Louisville also ranks amongst the dregs in free throw shooting, and that always concerns me. That has to improve more than anything else, along with senior guards Wayne Blackshear and Chris Jones finding their outside touch more consistently.

Crum Court in Louisville has been very kind to the Cardinals who are 70-9 on this floor, but we have already seen two Big Ten teams go into ACC country and pull off wins with victories by Rutgers and Nebraska on Monday. The Buckeyes may not get the outright win tonight, but I'm taking them and points for my free college basketball pick.

Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Ohio State +8 at 5Dimes

Season: 0-1 (-1.10)