NCAA Basketball Picks: Back Ohio St. To Continue Streak vs. Northwestern

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, January 6, 2016 1:54 PM UTC

Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016 1:54 PM UTC

The Ohio State Bueckeyes travel to meet the Northwestern Wildcats tonight. We preview this matchup and provide our NCAA basketball picks for this matchup.

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Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Ohio State +2½
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle


Ohio State and Northwestern aren't expected to contend for the Big Ten title this season but both have NCAA Tournament hopes. The Buckeyes make the trip to Evanston on Wednesday night as 3-point  underdogs on BetOnline NCAA basketball odds board.


Buckeyes Have Been Inconsistent
Ohio State (10-5, 2-0 Big Ten) brings a six-game winning streak into just its second true road game of the season. The other didn't go well as OSU lost at a good UConn team 75-55 on Dec. 12. It's hard to gauge this young squad right now. It lost to the likes of UT-Arlington and Louisiana Tech, both in Columbus, but also shocked then-No. 4 Kentucky 74-67 in Brooklyn on Dec. 19 and played ranked Virginia close in a Dec. 1 loss in Charlottesville in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

OSU opened Big Ten play with a 78-63 rout of Minnesota last Wednesday and then beat visiting Illinois 75-73 on Saturday. Junior Marc Loving was the star vs. the Illini with a career-high 27 points, including six straight to rally Ohio State from a 61-59 deficit to a 65-61 lead. He got to the foul line for 19 attempts and made a career-best 14 of them. Loving has scored in double figures in 12 of 15 games this season. He leads the team at 15.2 points per game.

The refs definitely were a bit kind to the Buckeyes on Saturday as they attempted 39 free throws (making 18) while Illinois attempted only 11 (making nine). OSU is now 37-0 under Coach Thad Matta when getting to the line 30-plus times. Ohio State outrebounded the Illini 42-33 and is now 8-0 on the season when outrebounding the opponent.

Interestingly, OSU hasn't had a shot blocked in the past four games. Since the blocked shot became an official NCAA statistic in 1985-86, no string of four Ohio State opponents had failed to block a shot. Ohio State has won the last 10 games in which an opponent did not have a block.

All-time, Ohio State is 36-63 in Big Ten road openers. The Buckeyes are 7-4 in that scenario under Matta and have won five straight. The Buckeyes are 7-6-1 against the spread on NCAA basketball odds and 0-1 ATS on the road.


This The Year For NU To Dance?!
Northwestern (13-2, 1-1) is the only Power 5 Conference team to never make the NCAA Tournament, but that has a realistic shot of changing this season under third-year coach Chris Collins, the former Duke player and assistant. If someone with Collins' pedigree can't win regularly in Evanston, I'm not sure anyone will.

The Wildcats' only non-conference loss was to then-No. 9 North Carolina 80-69 in Kansas City on Nov. 23. Northwestern then won the next 10 in a row, against pretty weak opposition, before falling at home to No. 4 Maryland 72-59 on Saturday. NU fell behind 40-20 at the half to the Big Ten preseason favorite and could never recover. Bryant McIntosh led the Wildcats with 17 points and had nine assists. The Cats were just 22-for-59 from the field and 2-for-20 from long range; NU entered making 10 3-pointers per game.

"I thought they were really hugging the shooters," Collins said afterward of the struggles from long range. "A lot of times, when you play really good teams, some of your weaknesses get exposed, and I thought they exposed us a little bit with some of the things we have to get better at."

It's still the second-best overall start in school history at Northwestern. McIntosh is among the nation's leaders in assists at 7.1 per game and is on pace to shatter the school's single-season record of 157 set by Tim Doyle in 2006-07. Northwestern ranks third in the nation with a 1.80 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Northwestern is 6-5-1 ATS on NCAA basketball picks this season and 3-4 at home.


Last Meeting
The schools played once last season and Ohio State won 69-67 in Evanston. D'Angelo Russell, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 draft by the Lakers, had 33 points for the Buckeyes. Russell's 3-pointer with 3:34 to play snapped a 60-all tie. Northwestern's Tre Demps hit a 3-pointer to pull his team within a point with 1.8 seconds to play, but Russell's free throw in the final second sealed it. NU led by as many as 11 in the first half. OSU has won 10 straight in the series and 21 of the past 22.

Take Ohio State, which seems to have learned from that one true road game. NU is better than in recent years but OSU still has more talent. Frankly, all the betting trends disagree with me, but that's because Northwestern has almost always been a dog. It's the first time NU is a favorite in this series since 2009. 

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