On Tuesday – the Michigan State Spartans will play at the Illinois Fighting Illini. The State Farm Center in Champaign Illinois will host this huge Big Ten affair. Tom Izzo and his Spartans come into the game as a very slight favorite. In fact, you can get Michigan State at -1.5, with the total coming in right around 141.5 for this battle.
Spartans look to bounce back after losing three in a row
The Michigan State Spartans were the pre-season #1 team in the nation and now they find themselves outside the top 25. This is the first this has happened since 2013-14 with the Kentucky Wildcats. The Spartans have lost three games in a row and sit at 16-8 overall and just 8-5 in the Big Ten conference. They travel to Champaign to take on an Illini team that is also on a bit of a skid having lost two consecutive games after winning seven games in a row.
These two teams locked up in the Breslin Center on January 2nd, a game that saw Michigan State take control in the second half. The Spartans never trailed in that game and at one point, led by 23 points en route to a 76-56 victory. Since that game, however, the Spartans are just 5-5 overall and are now traveling to play an Illinois team that is 12-2 straight up at home.
The Spartans are led by All-American candidate Cassius Winston, who has still been fantastic during Michigan State’s recent struggles, averaging 19.7 points and roughly 6 assists per game. The Spartans have struggled all season with finding someone to replace the expected production of Josh Langford who is out for the season due to injury. Rocket Watts has had moments, as has Gabe Brown and Aaron Henry, but none have been consistent enough to lean on.
Illinois is seemingly faltering after looking promising through the first half of Big Ten play. In their two consecutive losses, they allowed Iowa to average 1.14 points per possession on offense and then surrendered 1.09 PPP to Maryland over the weekend. Rim protecting big man Kofi Cockburn has also logged just a single block in his last four games.
Michigan State needs to win but has not done well on the road
The Spartans have not lived up to the hype this season in terms of straight-up or against the spread. On the road this season, State is just 3-4 SU in true road games and 1-6 against the spread. They are 2-4 ATS in their last six games overall and 1-7 ATS in their last eight games on the road. The total has gone under in 13 of their 24 games this season including 7 of their last 9 overall.
The Illini fight at home, but are coming off of a loss
As stated above, Illinois is 12-2 at home this season, but just 6-6-1 against the spread and 3-4 straight up as a dog. Overall, the Illini are 11-10-1 ATS on the season. The total has gone under in 13 of Illinois’ 23 games this season, including 10 of their last 15 games.
Get ready for a fight
Michigan State is in no real danger of missing the tournament at present time, but this is an important game just to back on the right track, as well as for seeding purposes. Illinois has lost some momentum it had with poll voters and needs to get back to protecting their home court after faltering against Maryland. The Spartans have the best player and the coaching but Illinois is at home. The smartest bet here is to take the under in my opinion as I doubt either team gets to 70. If you need to take a side, take a side that is a little more desperate and boasts an All-American point guard. State wins and covers in a low scoring rock fight.