Michigan State men’s basketball will travel to Champagne, Illinois to take on the fighting Illini. Illinois has looked dangerous all season while the Spartans have been inconsistent. This will be a big test for the Spartans if they hope to contend in the top portion of the Big Ten.
Game Time: Thursday, January 11th at 9:00pm (US East Coast Time)
Watch the game: FS1 (or streaming in the FoxSports App with a subscription)
Comment and Follow Live at the GAME THREAD HERE (live at 6pm)
Some basics to sound like a pro:
Michigan State is going to have to do what it has not been able to yet this year: win a true road game. It’s inconceivable that the Spartans are this deep in the season and this will be only its third true road game (the other two were a loss at Nebraska and a loss at Northwestern).
On paper the Spartans should be strong on the road. They are led by a veteran team, and particularly their back court has experience featuring a 5th year senior shooting guard (Tyson Walker), a Senior point guard (AJ Hoggard) and a Junior wing (Jaden Akins). Yet these veterans (and fifth year senior power forward Malik Hall) have not looked great in their two Big Ten road losses. Particularly Malik Hall has been a disappearing act on the road.
In positive news for the Spartans, Tyson Walker and AJ Hoggard continue to look like one of the best backcourt combos in the country. If they can bring their defensive dominance to this game, it could make the difference against an Illinois team missing its top scorer (more on that in a moment).
Also, the return of Jaxon Kohler to the center position could mean this team actually gets some solid offensive production from its front court. This will be Kohler’s second game of the season and he only played a few minutes against Northwestern. Even in spot minutes, the sophomore is a substantial upgrade on the offensive end.
University of Illinois
Illinois is very good this year. Their only losses were against top ranked opponents Marquette (then Number 4), Tennessee (then number 17) and Purdue (then number ranked 1) 4 days ago. Each of those games has been highly contested.
In terms of overlapping opponents, Illinois was beat by Tennessee that also beat Michigan State in a tight pre-season game. Much more concerning for the Spartans is the absolutely beating Illinois gave Northwestern. In the game before the Wildcats controlled the Spartans and won by 15 points, the Fighting Illini had whipped Northwestern by 30 points.
The storyline for Illinois off the court is the Terence Shannon, Jr. story. Shannon was suspended by the team after he was arrested on a rape charge. The Illinois team leader in points per game and minutes played per game is suing the college to reinstate him. In the three games since his suspension, the Fighting Illini have continued to play well (the Northwestern and Purdue games were played without Shannon). Still he is a loss for a team.
Considering this game is being played in Champagne, Illinois, it would be considered an upset of the Spartans were able to pull off a win.
BBD: 78-71 Illinois Win