Busting Brackets

Ohio State vs Illinois: 2020-21 college basketball game preview, TV schedule

Jan 2, 2021; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini center Kofi Cockburn (21) and guard Ayo Dosunmu (11) celebrate during the first half against the Purdue Boilermakers at the State Farm Center. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 2, 2021; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini center Kofi Cockburn (21) and guard Ayo Dosunmu (11) celebrate during the first half against the Purdue Boilermakers at the State Farm Center. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports /

Ohio State travels to Illinois on Saturday in a top 25 conference matchup. Can the Buckeyes pull off the road upset? Or will Illinois get back on track with a win?

TV schedule: Saturday, January 16, 12 pm ET, FOX

Arena: State Farm Center, Champaign, Illinois

What is a better way to start off your Saturday than with some Big Ten college hoops? Not much at all. Throw in the fact that this is a top 25 matchup featuring the Ohio State Buckeyes (10-3, 4-3 Big Ten) verse the Illinois Fighting Illini (9-4, 5-2 Big Ten), and it makes it even more exciting.

Every day and night in the Big Ten is a grind. In some other major conferences, you might watch a game where there is a major difference in talent on the floor, but that does not exist in the Big Ten this year. Many people have stated that from top to bottom the Big Ten is the deepest conference in the country. Not many people would disagree around the college basketball world either.

Ohio State comes into this game on a positive note after back to back wins. The Buckeyes went on the road last Saturday and won at Rutgers 79-68, and had a home victory 81-71 Wednesday night against Northwestern. Illinois is looking to bounce back after suffering a tough home loss to a gritty Maryland team 66-63 last Sunday night.

If you like guards who can really score and fill up the stat sheet, then you really are going to enjoy watching this game. Two of the guards that really stick out are Illinois guard Ayo Dosunmu and Buckeyes guard Duane Washington Jr.

Ayo Dosunmu is coming off a 23 point game against Maryland on Sunday. While Duane Washington Jr. had a 17 point outing against Rutgers, and then turned around and scored 23 points in their win against Northwestern.

The two guards mentioned above may get the major headlines, but at the same time, you cannot ignore the big men on both teams either.

Illinois has an anchor in the middle with center Kofi Cockburn. The sophomore big man is having a tremendous year as he is currently averaging a double-double in points and rebounds. Cockburn has had some issues with getting in some foul trouble throughout his young career, but Illinois has great depth they can turn to when that happens. One player who really helps Illinois off the bench is forward Giorgi Bezhanishvili. The backup forward Bezhanishvili would be starting on many other teams around the country. Just hard to start over a player like Kofi Cockburn.

Ohio State also has a big man of their own they like a lot. Forward E.J Liddell is having a good season for the Buckeyes. The sophomore big man comes into this game averaging 14 points per game, and just over 6 rebounds per game. Liddell may not be as big as the likes of Kofi Cockburn, but he still is a huge problem in the paint for teams on Ohio State’s schedule.

Another big part of the Buckeyes’ success so far this season is forward Justice Sueing. The University of California transfer is averaging 10.7 points per game in his first season in Columbus.

Sueing recorded his first double-double of the season with 12 points, and 10 rebounds in their win at Rutgers last Saturday. He then turned around Wednesday and had 13 points and 7 rebounds against Northwestern. Justice Sueing is playing some really good basketball as of late which is great for the Buckeyes who are currently shorthanded at the moment.

Ohio State most likely will still be missing their starting point guard in CJ Walker who is out indefinitely with torn ligaments in his right hand for this key matchup. Walker missed their last two games against Rutgers and Northwestern. This is a huge blow for the Buckeyes if Walker has to miss significant time.

Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn are the best players in Illinois this year, but the Illini have some other nice pieces on their roster. Illinois has had strong showings so far this year from freshman guards Adam Miller, and Andre Curbelo. Senior guards Da’Monte Williams, and Trent Frazier have also played well too. You may look at Williams stats and they are not eye-popping, but if you watch him play he does a lot of things well to help the team win that does not always show up on the stat sheet.

Ayo Dosunmu, Da’Monte Williams, Adam Miller, and Trent Frazier are all good shooters, and the stats back that up. All four of them are shooting at least 36 percent from beyond the three-point line.

Cockburn and Dosunmu give the Illini one of the best duos in college basketball. The sky is the limit for Illinois. These two players are key and need to produce if they want to make a deep run come March.

This game should come down to the wire. It seems like most Big Ten games do that this year. Ohio State is a good team, just like the overall roster for Illinois in this matchup a little bit more than Ohio State.

Next. Latest Big Ten power rankings. dark

Brad Underwood and the Illini get their 10th win of the season and improve to 6-2 in the Big Ten standings.

Prediction: Ohio State 71, Illinois 79