Michigan State’s men’s basketball team is hosting the fighting Illini for their second showdown of the season. The number 10 Illinois squad beat Michigan State 71-68 in a hard fought battle in Champagne.
Michigan State is coming off a disappointing loss at Minnesota and in need of a signature win in the later part of the season to shore up their NCAA tournament resume.
Illinois has looked strong all season with and without their top scorer Terrence Shannon. Illinois has actually looked slightly less cohesive since Shannon’s return from a suspension related to criminal charges. Still he is a beast offensively and adds firepower to Illinois’ lineup that they did not have the last time these two teams met.
Game Time: Saturday, February 10th at 2:00 pm (US East Coast Time)
Watch the game: CBS
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Some basics to sound like a pro:
Michigan State is middle of the pack in the Big Ten and essentially a disappointing middle of the road team overall. While the team is liked by the analytics sites (the Spartans are ranked #17 in KenPom) and have avoided any “bad” losses, they have struggled with Quad 1 opponents, fairing only 2-7 overall. The team’s 14-9 overall record (6-6 in Big Ten) is a disappointment after a pre-season filled with national championship aspirations.
Despite some disappointment in the overall performance, the Spartans have still faired well at home - particularly in Big Ten matchups. Michigan State was able to play hard at Illinois in their loss a few weeks ago. That is hopefully a sign they can be even better at home - even as Illinois will have Terrence Shannon who was suspended during their last matchup.
Much of Michigan State’s success will rely on shooting guard Tyson Walker’s health. After averaging over 20-points a game for most of the season, a three game stretch saw his shooting suffer as he was struggling with a groin injury. Despite looking healthy in their most recent matchup against Minnesota, the team essentially lose the game in a late game stretch where Walker was forced to the locker room with what appeared to be a significant re-injury of his groin. If Walker is healthy, he adds much needed scoring punch and defensive grit for the Spartans.
Beyond Walker, MSU will be hoping Seniors AJ Hoggard and Malik Hall (particularly the former) bounce back from a lackluster effort in their loss at Minnesota. Michigan State cannot afford to have those two bring anything but their top effort against an athletic and well coached Illinois squad.
University of Illinois
The Fighting Illini have hung around the number 10 national ranking for an extended period of time this year. Impressively, the team did this while their star, Terrence Shannon was suspended. Since his return, the team has looked a bit less cohesive, but largely stuck to their winning ways.
Illinois learned a lot in Shannon’s absence, including to rely on senior Marcus Domask for much needed offense. If Illinois can figure out how to share the offense between those two and use stretch forward Coleman Hawkins’s multifaceted game they will be tough to beat for anyone in the country.
Michigan State will hope they can exploit Illinois’ sometimes suspect defense while finding some way to balance Illinois’ strong rebounding.
BBD: 72 - 68 MSU win
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