Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann instructs his team during the first half of an NCAA basketball game against Akron, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

The Ohio State Buckeyes (3-0) play a game outside Columbus for the first time this season, taking the hour-and-a-half bus ride to Cincinnati to face the Xavier Musketeers (2-0) on Thursday, November 18th, at 6:30 pm ET at the Cintas Center.

Team Moneyline Spread at DraftKings Total
Ohio State -125 -1.5 (-110) O 141.5 (-110)
Xavier +104 +1.5 (-110) U 141.5 (-110)

Odds as of November 17th, 2021.

After a pair of narrow victories, OSU blew out BGSU by 31 points thanks to a balanced attack that saw five players score in double-figures. The Buckeyes shot 51% from the floor against the Falcons, going 12 -of-32 beyond the arc. Head coach Chris Holtmann’s team had actually slipped a couple spots in the latest AP poll (from No. 17 to 19) prior to tip Monday, but the Buckeyes are currently rated as the 14th-best team by KenPom.

Xavier is coming off a 14-point win  over the Golden Flashes that saw Paul Scruggs finish with a game-high 23 points. Colby Jones chipped in 19 and grabbed eight rebounds in the effort. Now, head coach Travis Steele’s club is a slight home underdog against the Bucks on Thursday.

Justice for None

Ten players scored for Ohio State Monday — and that was without forward Justice Sueing, who was ruled out before the game with a lower body injury.  He’s now out indefinitely. That’s the bad news. Holtman delivered a sliver of good news Wednesday.

Sueing averaged 10.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists while playing both forward and point guard for the Scarlet and Gray a year ago. Being without him for any length of time is an issue for this Buckeye team due to his unique skill-set. Sueing’s ability to handle the ball, run the offense and attack the basket were crucial for Ohio State’s success last year.

While it sounds like he’ll be back at some point, when exactly is uncertain. His versatility in terms of where he can play on the court and the matchup issues, with his size and ability, are things the Buckeyes don’t have from other players.

OSU was obviously fine without him Monday. But his absence may be a bigger issue against a better Musketeer squad Thursday.

Bang For the Buck

It’s been noted Ohio State may be a better basketball team than their current ranking indicates, at least from an efficiency standpoint.

The Buckeyes are currently rated in the top-40 by KenPom in four major categories: offensive efficiency (9th), defensive efficiency (40th), two-point field-goal percentage (37th) and, of course, that 14th-overall ranking.

Two big reasons why are senior Justin Ahrens and junior EJ Liddell, who each rank in the top-seven among Big Ten players in effective field goal percentage according to KenPom. Coming into the season, Ahrens was seen as a spot-up shooter after going 42.5% from deep last season and taking 127 threes against just seven two-pointers. But if he can do more — all the better. Especially with Sueing not on the floor. Then, there’s Liddell.

The first-team all-conference player and honorable mention All-American from a year ago has been amazing in the first three games this year, averaging a team-high in points (22.3), while ranking second on the squad in rebounds (6.3) and assists (3.3).

As long as Holtmann continues to get maximum effort from his roster — with Liddell and Ahrens leading the way — it may not matter if Sueing is out.

All For One

Xavier comes into Thursday’s game as the 37th-rated team overall by KenPom and is expected to win 71-70. Similar to Ohio State, the Musketeers rank in the top-40 in numerous categories on the website (including 32nd in offensive efficiency).

Scruggs and Jones have led the way so far, with Scruggs averaging 20 points, six rebounds and 4.5 assists and Jones averaging 17.5, 6.5 and 2.5, respectively in the first pair of contests.

From a common opponent perspective, both Ohio State and Xavier have already beaten Niagara this season. The Buckeyes beat the Purple Eagles 84-74 after the Musketeers knocked them out 63-60 in Xavier’s season opener. The Musketeers were young and slightly inexperienced last season, with three freshmen and two transfers being part of the rotation. But after missing the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row (the longest drought for the program since the late 90s), Steele returns over 80% of its minutes.

A victory over a highly-respected Big Ten program would be a nice non-conference victory to claim come Selection Sunday. Will it happen though? I’m fading the home team in this spot and riding OSU.

Pick: Ohio State -1.5 (-110)





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