NCAA Basketball Picks: Lean Ohio State +4.5 In Home Finale vs. Iowa

Matthew Jordan

Sunday, February 28, 2016 1:19 AM GMT

Suddenly struggling Iowa looks to keep its Big Ten regular-season championship hopes alive as the No. 8 Hawkeyes visit Ohio State on Sunday afternoon in the Buckeyes' home finale. Iowa is a 4.5-point favorite on Heritage's NCAA Basketball odds.

Hawkeyes Slumping At Wrong Time
No. 8 Iowa (20-7, 11-4) is a game behind Big Ten leader Indiana, which is off this weekend. Those two schools play one another in Iowa City on Tuesday night. The Hawkeyes close the regular season with a tough game at Michigan.

Coach Fran McCaffrey's team has lost three of its past four games and will fall out of the Top 10 of the polls no matter what happens Sunday in Columbus. All three losses were to unranked teams, although Indiana is ranked now. On Wednesday, Iowa was upset at home by Wisconsin, 67-59, a win  that probably assures the Badgers a spot in the NCAA Tournament. It was UW's sixth straight win over the Hawkeyes and was Iowa's first home loss since Feb. 12, 2015 (16 straight wins). Iowa's 59 points were a season low (just 25 in second half) as was its shooting percentage of 32.7 (26.7 percent after intermission). The Hawkeyes' 14 turnovers were their most in Big Ten play and Iowa's bench was outscored 23-4.

Iowa scored the first seven points of the second half to take a 41-35 lead but couldn't build on that. After Wisconsin tied the game at 51, Iowa couldn't buy a basket. The Hawkeyes made just two of their final 16 attempts from the field. Iowa killed Wisconsin on the glass 43-30, including a whopping 20 offensive rebounds. But those led to only 14 second-chance points. Adam Woodbury had a career-high 18 boards (10 on offensive end) to lead Iowa and he's averaging 9.9 rebounds during Big Ten play, tops in the league.

Iowa is 13-11 ATS on NCAA Basketball odds this season and 5-4 ATS on the road.

 

Buckeyes Lose Key Player To Injury
Ohio State (18-11, 10-6 Big Ten) is not considered an NCAA Tournament team by any of the major projections right now. That's a moderate surprise considering that strong record in the good Big Ten. Plus Ohio State has a non-conference win over Kentucky. The problem being is that is OSU's only good out of conference win and it has some bad losses to teams like UT-Arlington and Louisiana Tech. The Buckeyes are also 0-4 against Big Ten ranked teams. Obviously a win here would be a huge boost as would a victory in the regular-season finale at No. 6 Michigan State next Saturday.

OSU got terrible news early this week when sophomore forward Jae'Sean Tate was ruled out for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury. He had surgery on Friday. Tate originally injured the shoulder in high school and had surgery. He apparently aggravated it last  Saturday vs. Nebraska. Tate had started every game and averaged 11.7 points (third on team), 6.4 rebounds (second), 1.5 assists (fourth) and 1.3 steals (first). In Big Ten games only, Tate had scored in double figures a team-best 10 times and was the Buckeyes' leading scorer at 12.0 points per game. "Jae'Sean is the heart and soul of this basketball team," Coach Thad Matta said to reporters when announcing the news.

The Buckeyes certainly  missed Tate  on Tuesday in their first game without him, losing 81-62 at home to Michigan State to end OSU's four-game winning streak. Freshman Mickey Mitchell made his first start of the season in Tate's place and was a non-factor in going 0-for-3 from the field with two rebounds in 21 minutes. The Spartans were 14-for-22 from long range, the most 3-pointers and best 3-point shooting percentage allowed by OSU this season. It was Ohio State's worst loss ever to Michigan State under Matta.

It's Senior Day in Columbus, and Ohio State is 10-1 under Matta in the school's final regular-season game of the year, home or away. OSU is 15-12-1 ATS on NCAA Basketball picks this season and 10-6-1 ATS at home.

 

Season Series
This is the only scheduled meeting between the Hawkeyes and Buckeyes. The all-time series is about as close as it can be: 78-77 in favor of Iowa. Last year, Iowa won both meetings. The past five in the series have all been decided by single digits. The road team has won three of the last four meetings and four of the last six.

Iowa's the better team, but it's a thin group and is 5-5 on the road. OSU is 6-2 at home in Big Ten play and has to have this win. Take the points. Iowa is 1-4 ATS in its past five road games. Ohio State has covered six of its past eight after a loss. 

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NCAA Basketball Pick:  Ohio State +4.5
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle