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Now Unranked Michigan State Looking to Snap 3-Game Losing Streak at Illinois as 2-Point Favorite

Blair Johnson

by Blair Johnson in College Basketball

Updated Mar 31, 2021 · 12:19 PM PDT

Aaron Henry celebrates with teammate
Michigan State forward Aaron Henry (0) celebrates with forward Gabe Brown (44) after scoring against Ohio State during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
  • Preseason AP No. 1 Michigan State, now unranked, is a two-point favorite on the road against Illinois Tuesday
  • The Spartans have lost three in a row, including a 77-68 loss at Michigan on Saturday
  • The Fighting Illini have lost two straight and have two road games after MSU

The Michigan State Spartans (16-8, 3-4 away) face the Illinois Fighting Illini (16-7, 12-2 home) Tuesday, Feb. 11 in a critical conference game for both teams. The game will tip off at 9:00 p.m. ET at the State Farm Center in Champaign and is televised on ESPN.

The Spartans were the preseason No. 1 team in the AP poll, but after three straight losses, are now unranked. Meanwhile, the Illini have lost two in a row and have two straight road games following Tuesday’s tilt.

Michigan State Spartans vs Illinois Fighting Illini Odds

Team Moneyline Spread Over/Under
Michigan State -130 -2.0 (-110) O 141.5 (-110)
Illinois +110 +2.0 (-110) U 141.5 (-110)

Odds taken Feb. 10.

Despite joining the 2013-14 Kentucky Wildcats as the only other team to begin the season ranked No. 1, then tumble out of the rankings during the season, Tom Izzo’s club is still a slight favorite in the Michigan State vs Illinois odds. And this year’s MSU squad can also take solace in the fact that that UK team eventually rebounded with a March Madness run all the way to the title game, where it ultimately came up short against UConn 60-54.

Oddsmakers still have confidence in Michigan State to make a run to Atlanta, as the Spartans are +2200 in the NCAA Tournament odds. So will Sparty get off the schnide in Champaign? Or will the home team pick up a much-needed win themselves? We analyze this Big Ten showdown and make a prediction.

For Starters

Michigan State opened conference play with an 8-2 record, a mark that includes a 76-56 victory over Illinois on Jan. 2nd, but Izzo’s club has crashed down to earth of late, losing three straight – and looking bad doing so.

The Spartans have shot an abysmal 11-for-50 from the field in the first 8 minutes of their last five road games – including a horrendous start Saturday in Ann Arbor.

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The first media timeout at Crisler Arena didn’t come until there was 14:04 left in the first half. The score was 3-3. Yikes.

If Michigan State is going to pick up a road win (something it has done only once this calendar year in five tries), the team in green needs to start the game Tuesday much better. And playing in what should be a hostile environment at State Farm makes that a tall order.

Must-Win For Illinois?

While hard to say any game is a must-win in mid-February, Brad Underwood’s group could certainly use a win. The Illini are coming off back-to-back defeats after winning seven straight (since that 20-point loss to Michigan State) that includes a 75-66 loss to conference-leading Maryland at home in their last time out.

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Sophomore guard Ayo Dosunmu matched his season average with 16 points against the Terrapins, but only one other player was in double-figures last Friday.

What’s next for Illinois? Only road games against Rutgers and Penn State, programs that own a combined 28-1 record on their respective home courts. And while the Illini own impressive wins away from Champaign, including victories over Wisconsin, Purdue and Michigan – sparked by game-winning shots from Dosunmu in Madison and Ann Arbor – it’s hard to imagine that road luck continues. The Illini need to take care of business at home first.

Home Court Is Everything

With both teams reeling a bit, this is simply a tough spot for the Spartans. While I have confidence Izzo’s roster of savvy veterans – with the likes of Cassius Winston and Xavier Tillman – may very get hot in March and make a deep run in the tournament a-la UK six years ago, Illinois straight up in the pick here.

In a Big Ten season ruled by parity and home cookin’ to historic degree, I fully expect Underwood’s guys to use a raucous State Farm Center crowd to its advantage. Izzo called Dosunmu “one of the more explosive guards” in the conference when he met with the media Monday. He’s impressive.

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And Illinois also features center Kofi Cockburn, who goes for roughly 14 points and nine rebounds per game. A talented roster and a boisterous home game should be enough for the Fighting Illini to deliver a fourth-straight loss to Sparty.

Pick: Illinois ML

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