The Spartans feel like they’ve have turned a corner after a win at Indiana last weekend, but things don’t get any easier in the February 23rd Illinois at Michigan State pick. The #5 Fighting Illini are a machine right now, rattling off seven straight wins, covering the number in five of them.
Brad Underwood’s squad’s latest performance was a 94-63 win over a Minnesota team that had been 13-1 at home prior to Saturday’s meeting. Illinois is a -7 point favorite in their visit to East Lansing on Tuesday night, but Michigan State has three straight 20+ point wins on their own court in this series. The Spartans will play with a tournament mentality in this one, which makes them dangerous.
All About Ayo
Illinois is obviously a very deep team, and that was evident with four players scoring at least a dozen points in the win over Minnesota last time out. The Illini easily covered the -4 point spread led largely in part by another triple-double from POY candidate Ayo Dosunmu, who has two in his last four games.
The Spartans actually swept Illinois last season, holding Dosunmu to under 20 points in both games. Michigan also did a number on Kofi Cockburn in the tilt at East Lansing, holding the 7’0, 290 pounder to 5 points and 9 rebounds. Both Illini players are better this year though, including Cockburn who has gone for 20+ points and double digit rebounds in three of the last four.
The Spartans defense looked much better vs. Indiana last Saturday, something that will be key against the #2 scoring team in the Big Ten averaging over 80 points/game. Illinois plays down to their opponents at times though, beating Northwestern by just 7 points as -13 favorites and having to go to OT vs. Nebraska over the last three games.
Spartans Catch Illini Here?
This is always a rivalry game of sorts, especially with the Spartans getting a series sweep last year including 76-56 at home albeit as -10 point favorites. Illinois wants to play for seeding right now, but they also have potential slip-up games with MSU and Nebraska for visits to Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio State to close out the year.
Tom Izzo’s team doesn’t have the luxury of taking the February 23rd Illinois at Michigan State game off. The 11-9 Spartans dug themselves quite a hole in some early season struggles and are way down to 65th in the KenPom rankings.
The Spartans have just the #9 defense in the Big Ten, so them holding Indiana to 4-19 shooting from three point range was impressive, but also surprising. Hoosiers star Trayce Jackson-Davis got his with 34 points, but MSU’s Aaron Henry went blow for blow by adding 27 of his own.
Free February 23rd Illinois at Michigan State Pick
The Illini have won five straight conference road games which is tough in the Big Ten, but the opponents were also Minnesota, Nebraska, Indiana, Northwestern, and Penn State. For all their struggles this year, the Spartans are still 8-3 on their own floor and have dominated Illinois in East Lansing the last three trips.
Illinois 68 – Michigan State 73
Free Pick: Michigan State +7