Featured Video from Scott Reichel
Big Ten battle between two teams that have been struggling recently as the Penn State Nittany Lions host the Ohio State Buckeyes. Penn State has lost three in a row, while Ohio State has lost four of their last five. Oddsmakers have this game as close to even, so it should be a good one. It'll be televised nationally by ESPNU.
Ohio State SlippingOhio State started the season off looking like one of the best teams in the nation. They crushed a highly ranked Villanova team early on, and started the year off with nine straight wins. Since then they're just 3-5, and have lost four of their last five. It's unclear exactly what is ailing them, but I think they were just never as good as people thought. They've lost each of their past three road games, and their only road win this season came against a North Carolina team that is in the middle of a complete collapse. Each of those three road losses have also been by at least 12 points. The offense has been slipping, and it isn't all that surprising since they've been relying on a bunch of young guys.
Freshman point guard D.J. Carton is probably being asked to do too much, and he has been a very inefficient recently. The offense is nose-diving, and they have failed the top 59 points and fourth their last five games. Playing on the road against a stingy Penn State Defense that can often force opponents into lulls, that's going to be a problem. They have also been pretty sloppy with the ball turning it over 13.8 times per game on average despite playing at a very slow pace. The Buckeyes have a bunch of solid guys, but they are lacking a true alpha scorer who can take over and get a bucket in crunch time.
Penn State Hits AdversitySpeaking of teams who have been struggling recently, Penn State has been as well. After years of frustrating results under Pat Chambers, this looked like the year that Penn State basketball was finally going to break out. They got some big wins early on, and were able to crack the AP top 25 for the first time in many years. As soon as they achieved some real success they stumbled though, and they've now lost three straight games. That being said, it's not time to panic just yet. All three were really tough games, and in their most recent one they lost a nailbiter on the road against a very good Minnesota squad.
The losing stretch seems to be more the result of some bad shooting luck than anything else, and what better way to break out of it than with a home game in front of what looks to be a sold out crowd. PSU has four different guys averaging at least 10 points per game, and leading scorer Lamar Stevens is one of the best players in the conference. The Nittany Lions got a huge boost with the addition of transfers Izaiah Brockington and Curtis Jones this season, and one thing to keep an eye on here is freshman Seth Lundy. Lundy was very highly recruited out of Roman Catholic High School, but Penn State was bringing him along slowly at first. That all changed in their most recent game when he played a career-high 26 minutes and scored a career-high 15 points. It looks like Chambers is going to play him more moving forward, and that's a very good sign for Penn State's offense.
Trends, courtesy of Covers.com: Nittany Lions are:
- 7-2-1 ATS in their last 10 games as an underdog
- 5-2-1 ATS in their last 8 games following a straight up loss
- 0-5 ATS in their last 5 games overall
- 7-15 ATS in their last 22 road games vs. a team with a winning home record
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
I think Penn State is poised to break out of their slump here, and I like them a lot. The Buckeyes are in free-fall, and they've been terrible on the road recently. Penn State has lost a few close games against tough opponents, and they should bounce back here at home. Lundy is starting to play a lot more, which should help them pick things up. The crowd is going to be raucous for this one, and I think their problems are a lot more fixable than Ohio State's are. I don't think this one will be particularly close.
Prediction: Penn State
Full-Game Total Pick
The under also makes a lot of sense in this spot. Penn State has more scoring talent than they have in a while, but they still want to be a defensive team first and foremost. Ohio State has really been struggling offensively, and they've failed to top 59 points in four of their last five games. Not surprisingly, the under is 4-1 in those five games. Penn State is capable of giving opponents fits with their athleticism on defense, and I don't think the Buckeyes will have much success scoring. Penn State has also been struggling on offense, and their shooting just hasn't been there recently.