At 11-8 overall and 3-5 in the Big Ten, Ohio State is squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble per CBS Sports expert Jerry Palm, who currently slots the Buckeyes among his First Four Out for the Big Dance along with Pittsburgh and fellow Big Ten schools Northwestern and Maryland. OSU needs every win it can get but might be without starting forward Zed Key for Tuesday's game at Illinois, which is a 4.5-point favorite at FanDuel and taking heavy action.
As of this writing, 79% of the handle is on the Illini against the spread, along with 63% of the tickets. Illinois (13-6, 4-4) will be well-rested as it hasn't played since an 80-65 home loss to Indiana on Jan. 19 ended the Illini's four-game winning streak. Palm lists them as a No. 6 seed in the Big Dance.
Texas Tech transfer Terrence Shannon Jr. has been terrific for Illinois coach Brad Underwood, averaging 18.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.4 steals. The guard is the only power conference player and one of just seven players nationally averaging at least 18 points, five rebounds, three assists and one steal on the season.
Ohio State ended a five-game losing streak Saturday with a 93-77 home win over Iowa but Key was helped off by trainers after injuring his knee on a late dunk. He has been "responding well" to treatment according to head coach Chris Holtmann but is questionable. The injury is not considered a long-term concern. The 6-foot-8 junior has started in 16 games this season, averaging 12.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 25.5 minutes per game. He missed a game vs. Maryland and the Buckeyes lost by seven on the road.
OSU has the potential Big Ten Freshman of the Year and an expected lottery pick in the 2023 draft in Brice Sensabaugh, who is second nationally among freshmen in scoring at 17.5 points per game. He has started 10 games and is averaging 19.9 points per game in those starts. The Florida native has led the team in scoring 10 straight games, a first for a Buckeyes freshman.
Illinois leads the series 108-81, but the Buckeyes have won four of the last five meetings in Champaign.
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