College Basketball Best Bets: Will Ohio State Cash As Road Favorite At Xavier?

Written By Eli Hershkovich on November 18, 2021
College Basketball Best Bets

With games starting at noon EST on Thursday, where does the value lie? Let’s dig into my college basketball best bets, which focuses on the Gavitt Tipoff Games with No. 19 Ohio State at Xavier.

College Basketball Best Bets: Thursday, Nov. 18

Ohio State Buckeyes at Xavier Musketeers

The last time these two programs squared off, then-Ohio State guard Ron Lewis sent their 2007 NCAA Tournament game into overtime with a last-second triple before the Buckeyes took over. Xavier still covered (+8), though.

In this contest, the Musketeers will be tasked with limiting big man E.J. Liddell, who’s generating the sixth-highest possession rate in Division I. What does that metric entail? The Buckeyes are running their offense through the 6-foot-7 forward, but Travis Steele’s bunch has the length to match up.

Lidell is crafty off the dribble, which could force Steele to pin Indiana transfer Jerome Hunter on him occasionally. Still, Xavier presents one of the top block rates in college basketball with Dieonte Miles and Iowa transfer Jack Nunge upfront. Zach Freemantle’s absence (knee) is a loss at both ends, yet Nunge has improved at defensively since his arrival.

Although Chris Holtmann’s bunch has accumulated a top-45 effective field goal percentage (eFG%) over its first three games, I’m concerned about its late-game execution minus guards Duane Washington Jr. and C.J. Walker. Without them, Ohio State lacks a true shot creator.

  • eFG% is comparable to standard field goal percentage, but it gives 50% more credit to made three-pointers.

On the flip side, the Musketeers have accrued a bottom-120 eFG% thus far, but I consider that more poor shooting luck than anything. Senior guards Nate Johnson (39.2%) and Adam Kunkel (34.2%) are both proven floor-spacers while Xavier will also have KyKy Tandy (35.5%) available after he missed the first two games with an illness. Most importantly, Paul Scruggs represents a dynamic playmaker who can create his own shot.

Holtmann runs a pack-line defense, and it’s unsurprisingly surrendering a top-70 perimeter scoring rate as a result. Expect the Musketeers to bounce back from their shooting woes.

As far as the total, money has come in on the under () after opening at O/U 140.5. Despite that, we could see an uptempo affair if Xavier controls the glass. Steele’s unit boasts a top-30 rebounding rate at each side of the floor.

Ohio State is 9-1 against the spread in its last ten road games. Nevertheless, I’ll grab the points with the Musketeers — with a ruckus Cintas Center awaiting the Buckeyes. The spread opened at OSU -1.5, so there’s a bit of value too.

  • Update: OSU wing Justice Sueing (abdomen) is out for an extended period of time after being reevaluated this week.

Eli’s College Basketball Best Bets: Xavier +2.5 (bet down to +2)

Eli Hershkovich Avatar
Written by
Eli Hershkovich

Eli Hershkovich is a lead sports betting writer with TheLines and Catena Media, formerly with Audacy and The Action Network. His goal is to provide you with data and information to lead you to winning bets. Eli is an avid college basketball gambler — among many other sports — and still hasn't forgiven Virginia for ruining his 2018-2019 Texas Tech futures.

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