Buckeyes to Poison Gophers With Strong Interior Play in Big Ten Opener

Rainman M.

Saturday, December 1, 2018 11:43 AM UTC

Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018 11:43 AM UTC

Get the latest college basketball picks on Ohio State vs Minnesota. The game from Columbus is on Sunday, December 2 at 7 p.m. ET on the Big Ten Network. Bet confidently with tips from SBRpicks.com.

Minnesota (6-1 SU, 4-3 ATS) at No. 16 Ohio State (6-1 SU, 4-3 ATS)Sunday, December 2, 7 p.m. ET (Big Ten Network)Free NCAAB Pick: Buckeyes ATSBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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While it’s important in college sports to appreciate which players departed in the offseason, sometimes the returning talent gets underrated. This seems to be the case with Ohio State. Despite losing its leading scorer, Keita Bates-Diop, the Buckeyes have enjoyed an impressive start, winning as underdogs at Cincinnati and easily covering as 2.5-point favorites at Creighton. KenPom is projecting them to be favored by six points at home against Minnesota.

One Buckeye who is assuming an expanded role this season is Bates-Diop’s former backup, big man Kaleb Wesson. Last year, he was mostly reticent to shoot, instead confining himself to being one of the nation’s top offensive rebounders and a respectable shot blocker. He did have some nights, though, where he contributed significantly to Ohio State’s point total. One such night came on January 20 against Minnesota, when he produced 15 points on six-of-eight shooting in addition to eight rebounds. Wesson, who’s leading OSU with 14.4 PPG, had been having a strong season until he faced Syracuse. Syracuse’ defense boasts a stalwart interior led by seven-footer blocking sensation Paschal Chukwu. Minnesota, though, doesn’t have a defender like Chukwu. Minnesota’s best defending options inside are freshman big man Daniel Oturu and center Matz Stockman. Oturu has a low block rate against top-50 competition. Stockman’s is slightly higher, but he’s a backup because he can’t score much and is prone to fouls and turnovers. Overall, Minnesota ranks about 80 spots below Syracuse in opposing two-point and block percentages. Minnesota is an opponent whom Wesson can bounce back against.

Departed guard Kam Williams was such a proficient shooter from behind the arc for OSU. Ohio State started off the season hot from three, but has cooled off towards expectations. It has failed to cover in games where it hoisted up too many threes and was inefficient from three. Against Samford, for instance, Ohio State went 3-for-20 from three and failed to cover. Against Syracuse, Ohio State attempted nearly as many threes as twos and converted only 27 percent of its three-point attempts. Minnesota has a different defensive emphasis than Syracuse. The Gophers’ number one goal is to defend the perimeter. They allow the 49th-lowest frequency of three-point attempts. Instead, they allow the 72nd-highest point distribution from inside the arc. So, watch out not only for Wesson. But, freshman power forward Kyle Young looks to keep impressing. He was rewarded for his solid scoring efficiency with a start against Syracuse and he produced 12 points and the team’s second-highest offensive rating. Ohio State’s interior game will be crucial to its covering the spread. It has the scoring ability inside and it matches up well against a Gopher defense that is most vulnerable inside. Kam Williams’ replacement, freshman Luther Muhammad, will go for his fifth double-digit scoring effort with his proclivity for pull-up jumpers inside the arc.

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For Minnesota, center Jordan Murphy will get his lion’s share of points simply because of his high level of involvement in the offense. However, he is a poor shot-blocker and won’t get much quality from his supporting cast. The biggest disappointments from Minnesota thus far have come from its backcourt. Expectations were high for returning guards Amir Coffey and Isaiah Washington. But Coffey’s field goal percentage is down eight from last year, Washington’s 16. Their cold shooting has led their offensive rating to plummet.

The biggest reason why Minnesota will struggle to keep up with Ohio State is stylistic. The Gophers like to go up-tempo and it struggles against teams who succeed in slowing them down. An example came in its second-to-last game when it produced only 56 points in a non-cover on the road, where it’s harder to establish one’s preferred tempo, at Boston College. Going back to last season, Minnesota is 0-4 ATS on the road against teams whose defense ranks better than 200 teams in slowing the opposing average possession length. Ohio State ranks better than 265 in the category and has succeeded against up-tempo teams like Creighton.

Ohio State made headlines earlier in the week when the NCAA released its NET rankings, which it intends to replace RPI with to select teams for March Madness. To the shock of everyone, Ohio State ranked number one. The NCAA updates its rankings daily. The new rankings system, which considers the additional factors strength of schedule and margin of victory, currently has Ohio State at number 15, Minnesota at 102. The Buckeyes make for a strong NCAAB Pick.

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