Ohio State vs. Villanova NCAA Tournament Second Round Betting Preview

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Top sportsbooks have released their NCAAB odds for Sunday’s game between Ohio State and Villanova.

In the first round, Ohio State advanced past repeat Cinderella team Loyola Chicago in a very low-scoring game. After sleepwalking for a bit, Villanova woke up and advanced past 15-seeded Delaware by a large margin.

For reasons that I will explain, you should play the spread for this game.

Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Villanova Wildcats

Sunday, March 20, 2022 – 02:40 PM EDT at PPG Paints Arena

Ohio State's Recent Defensive Problems 

Recency bias is dangerous because it causes bettors to attach excessive significance to the most recent events. Focusing on Ohio State's most recent game can problematically cause bettors to forget what happened before.

Buckeye guards and forwards have been struggling to keep the opposing ball-handler in front of them. These struggles help explain why, to end the regular season, the Buckeyes couldn't limit opposing scoring even in home games. For example, at home, they allowed 75 points to Michigan and 78 to Nebraska.

Now, forward Kyle Young was absent during these games. While his toughness and his help-side defense are valuable, Buckeye fans will easily glorify and overrate this particular player. Even Young's 29 minutes on February 27 could not impede Maryland from accruing 75 points against the Buckeye defense.

One may respond that, instead of accounting for recency bias, I am simply ignoring Ohio State's most recent defensive effort in order to support an unequivocal narrative.

However, Loyola Chicago and Villanova are incomparable. One can't expect the same difficulties with shot-making and turnovers from the Wildcat offense as one saw against a Loyola Chicago team that was not nearly as proven during the regular season against NCAA Tournament teams as Villanova is.

Moreover, one may suggest that Ohio State could try some new things defensively. 

While the Buckeyes have developed comfort with a zone defense -- they utilized it during the Penn State game, for example, -- a zone defense would be ridiculous against an offense that shoots as well as Villanova's.

Wildcat Offense vs. Buckeye Defense 

Villanova is led offensively by two-time Big East Player of the Year Collin Gillespie. Gillespie leads a patient and clinical Wildcat offense that ranks 31st nationally at limiting its turnovers. Turnovers certainly won't be a problem against a Buckeye defense that is not disruptive. 

The gap in the tendency to create havoc between Ohio State and another Big East team like St. John's is very wide and yet Nova generally even did a great job of handling Red Storm pressure.

With the help of good spacing from a versatile and position-less offense, it is easy to spread out a defense.

As the Nebraska debacle and other games show, it is easy to isolate Buckeye defenders inside especially when they cling to potential shooters. As video footage shows, Villanova is known for the unique ability of its smaller players to post up defenders in isolation.

Its post-up abilities plus the on-ball defensive struggles of Buckeye players will allow Villanova to win sundry one-on-one battles.

The guard play of the Wildcats dissecting the defense and their overall ball movement facilitates an inside-outside style of basketball and generally helps create many favorable three-point shooting attempts. Ranking 53rd nationally in three-point percentage, the Wildcats boast plenty of high-volume, reliable shooters.

In addition to Gillespie, Caleb Daniels converts at least 40% of his three-point attempts.

Ohio State's Offensive Style

On offense, Ohio State can thrive if it is able to rely on at least two of three things: spacing, inside-out play, and ball screens

Video footage of Ohio State basketball shows a strong tendency to run ball-screens, especially at the top of the key. The Buckeyes also do a lot of off-ball screens.

These ball-screens are supposed to give either the ball-handler or the player, who was screened for and is moving without the ball, a step on the defender.

Success in All Three Aspects 

Villanova's position-less play may make it seem suited to handle Ohio State's plethora of ball-screens. However, even switching is often difficult for a defensive to accomplish cleanly because defenders will blindly run into other players.

When Villanova shut down Creighton at home, the latter's offense was stale because of its lack of movement. OSU ball screens will get its players moving and it will shift even a versatile defense like Nova's. 

Know for your NCAAB picks that Marquette thrived against Villanova partly because of its use of screens. But I especially like the comparison between Marquette and Villanova because of Justin Lewis.

It is actually hard to find among Nova opponents a comparable player to Ohio State power forward/center EJ Liddell. This is because in the Big East and before, Nova has had to face so many teams with big and tall centers.

An undersized team, Nova has had to figure out how to account for this physical disadvantage. While it won't have to double the post like it often did against, for example, tall Creighton center Ryan Kalkbrenner, it will have its hands full with Liddell.

Similar to Lewis, Liddell is a smaller, athletic, explosive, and very skilled player who can play both the four and the five. While they are not the same player, Lewis's offensive success against the Wildcats shows promise for this versatile type of four/five. Liddell is strong in isolation, which helps explain his efficient two-point percentage.

Ohio State also loves to have Liddell initiate inside-out action. Whereas the Wildcats will more often probe inside before kicking it out, the Buckeyes will have Liddell go to work by himself. When defenders dig or otherwise help out against Liddell, Liddell will kick the ball outside to an open shooter.

Ranking 37th nationally in three-point percentage, the Buckeyes have plenty of weapons from behind the arc. Malaki Branham and Jamari Wheeler, for example, both convert well over 38% of their three-point attempts.

Spacing is also key to OSU's offense. While it likes to play slow, it will take advantage of transition opportunities. In transition as well as in the half-court, Buckeye players will space the floor.

They may have guards work inside while forwards and centers pop or lurk behind the arc. This reversal increases the operating space inside while forcing defenders more used to hanging near the basket to guard the perimeter.

Guys like Malaki Branham, who will do some post-up work of his own similar to Nova guards, help explain the high scoring outputs that Ohio State has achieved even against very highly ranked defenses like Illinois'.

Their ability in isolation, in a well-spaced landscape, and their ability to pass to spaced-out players benefitting from distant help defense, will help them reach a high-scoring total a Villanova team that frequently struggles against good athletes.

For the above reasons, play the "over" for your best bets.

Ohio State vs. Villanova Score Prediction: Ohio State 73 - Villanova 78

NCAAB Pick: Over 131 (-120) at BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

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Over 131 (-120)
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NCAAB Prop Pick: Ohio State Team Total Over 64.5 (-120) at The Best Online Sportsbooks

Ohio State Team Total Over 64.5 (-120)
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*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.