Ohio State Buckeyes vs. West Virginia Mountaineers Preview and Pick – Point Spread

Ohio State Buckeyes (14-5 SU, 10-9 ATS) vs. West Virginia Mountaineers (14-3 SU, 6-10 ATS), 2:00 p.m. EST, Saturday, January 23, 2009, WVU Coliseum, Morgantown, W.V. TV: CBS
by Ryno of Predictem.com

Point Spread: Ohio State +6/West Virginia -6
Over/Under: 132.5

A few weeks ago, West Virginia looked like one of the best teams in college basketball and Ohio State was without Evan Turner and wasn’t even looking like an NCAA tournament team. But things have really changed in the last few weeks, as now Ohio State is playing very well and West Virginia is struggling.

West Virginia has gradually gotten worse this season. The Mountaineers started the season with an 11-0 record. But their first seven wins were all fairly easy and included wins over Texas A&M and Portland. Then, they barely won 80-78 at Cleveland State on a buzzer-beater, won a tough battle with Ole Miss, 76-66, needed overtime to win 90-84 at Seton Hall, and won 63-62 over Marquette on a buzzer-beater. Since then, the Mountaineers are 3-3 with those three wins coming over two of the worst teams in the Big East - Rutgers and South Florida - and in a tough battle at Marshall that came down to the final minute. Their losses came to Purdue, Notre Dame and Syracuse.

In West Virginia’s 68-60 win at Marshall on Wednesday, the Mountaineers out-rebounded the Thundering Herd by 13 and committed only nine turnovers. They shot just 39 percent from the field and 4-for-17 on 3-point attempts but they still managed to win the game by pounding the ball inside and attacking the rim. Da’Sean Butler scored 16 points, Darryl Bryant had 14 points, and Kevin Jones had 13 points and eight rebounds.

Turner injured his back after falling on it while going up for a dunk in a win over Eastern Michigan on December 5. He was supposed to miss eight weeks, but he somehow recovered quickly and returned after sitting out for less than five weeks. His first two games back were a win over Indiana and a loss at Minnesota. Since then, the Buckeyes have won three straight, winning at Purdue in a game that Turner scored a career-high 32 points, and at home over Wisconsin and Northwestern. Turner has been carrying the Buckeyes all season long when he has been out there and he is certainly a candidate for National Player of the Year.

In a 76-56 win over Northwestern on Tuesday, Turner had 20 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists. Jon Diebler scored 17 points, and Dallas Lauderdale had 14 points on a perfect 6-for-6 shooting. The Buckeyes shot 52 percent from the field and held Northwestern to 38 percent. Ohio State won the rebounding battle by seven and committed only 10 turnovers.

West Virginia has a lot of long, athletic forwards, including Butler, Jones and Devin Ebanks. Either Butler or Ebanks will probably be defending Turner, so it will be interesting to see if either one of them can disrupt Turner and slow him down. The Mountaineers are a very good rebounding team with a +8.5 margin on the glass. Ohio State is +2.6 on the boards, but having Turner back makes the Buckeyes a much better rebounding team. Despite going 7-for-24 from beyond the arc against Northwestern, the Buckeyes are shooting a very good 38.9 percent from 3-point range for the season. They are also shooting 49.8 percent from the field. West Virginia is shooting 44.8 percent from the field and 34.9 percent from 3-point range. Ohio State is holding opponents to 40.3 percent shooting from the field and 34.5 percent from beyond the arc, while West Virginia’s opponents are shooting 43.5 percent from the field and 31.7 percent from 3-point range.

Ohio State is 1-4 ATS in its last five road games but 4-1 ATS in its last five games overall. West Virginia is 2-5 ATS in its last seven games overall and 1-4 ATS in its last five home games. The under is 11-1 in Ohio State’s last 12 games against the Big East and 7-3 in its last 10 games overall. The under is 4-0 in West Virginia’s last four games overall and 5-1 in its last six home games.

Ryno’s Pick: Ohio State is certainly playing better basketball right now than West Virginia is. In the middle of the conference schedules, it’s tough to gauge how much importance each team will put on this non-conference affair. Ohio State did get a win at Purdue, but the Buckeyes haven’t been very good on the road this season. West Virginia has been pretty good at home but it did lose to Syracuse recently. Ohio State is playing better, but West Virginia is at home and needs this win more than the Buckeyes do right now. It will probably be a tough battle that will come down to the end. But both of these teams are patient on offense and very strong on defense. With so many long arms on both teams, it will be tough to get baskets down low and it will be tough to get shots off from the outside. Take the under 132.5