Illinois at Michigan State
Both of these teams are coming off big wins. Michigan State’s win holds slightly more significance than the Illinois victory. MSU came back from down 27 to beat Northwestern, while Illinois beat a Nebraska team that has played very well this season. U of I has not played well in the Big Ten this season going just 3-12, while Michigan State stands alone atop the conference at 14-2.
These teams met earlier in the season and Michigan State walked away the victor. Illinois played them very well for a team at the bottom of the Big Ten. The defense of the Illini kept them in most of the game before Michigan State pulled away at the end of the game.
Illinois has not played well this year, plain and simple. They are two different teams in each half every game. They either play extremely well in the first half and completely fall apart in the second half or vice versa. Foul trouble has been the biggest problem for the Illini. If you look at their roster and look at the stats, you can clearly see that the problems they are having are not related to talent. This is a very talented, very young team that will improve their play over the next couple of years. When the Illini have seen success this year, it’s been because of the play of guys like Leron Black and Trent Frazier. Mike Finke has also been a key contributor to the team this season, but has sat out the last three contests with a concussion suffered in practice. Black and Frazier lead the team as number 1 and number 2 on the team in scoring. Frazier has seen an increase in his minutes as well as an increase in starts; he has scored in double digits 19 this season as a Freshman. Leron Black has also seen success on offense with 23 games in double digits. Both players showed their offensive skill in their win over Nebraska where Black recorded a career high with 28 points. It’ll be a tough task for the Illini, but if they can get hot like Northwestern did on Saturday and play the defense they are capable of playing, they could upset the Spartans in East Lansing
Michigan State will be playing it’s last home game this season, so that likely means this game will be Miles Bridges last home game (sorry Karl). I brought this up in my last Michigan State review and I’ll bring it up again, Miles Bridges is determined to get a title this year. He doesn’t want to end on a bad note with Michigan State, and anything less than a championship at the end of the season is a failure in his mind. It will also be Tum Tum Nairn’s last game at home. This saddens me more than it should, I feel like Tum Tum has been at MSU forever now. In the Michigan State game’s that I have been to in the past, I always loved hearing his name over the PA system. I hope Tum Tum has a good game in this one and is able to give Michigan State fan’s one last great home game for them to remember him by, he deserves it as much as anyone. Our other writer, freekarl3, has given the prediction that Tum Tum will have his career high in his last game in East Lansing. Cassius Winston was the one that sparked the comeback against Northwestern to give Sparty their tenth win in a row. Winston lead the Spartans with 17 points. Miles Bridges, Nick Ward and Jaren Jackson will be the likely source of offense for Michigan State on Tuesday night. The Illini play a spectacular defense and their guards force a lot of turnovers; as a team they force 17.4 a game and average almost 20 points off turnovers a game. With every great defense there is a flaw. The Illini’s flaw is that they sometimes over play the passing lanes. This will open up the paint for Michigan State and their big men will feast if their guards feed them the ball.
Keys to the game
Illinois: Cause turnovers and limit fouls. The strength of the Illini this season has been their ability to create turnovers, but their weakness has been fouling too early and too often. Illinois opponents average 17 made free throws per game, those are literally free points caused by fouling. Northwestern’s defense was able to fluster the Michigan State offense for at least one half last week, so if the Illini can put something together for a full game, they’ll be in good shape.
Michigan State: Limit the three ball from Illinois. Illinois has been a largely live by the three, die by the three team this season. They have attempted 609 on the season, while making 195. Not a great percentage for a team that relies this heavily on threes for their offense. If you want a comparison, Illini opponents have shot 504 on the season and made 167. Their opponents have had more success in the win column as Illinois is 13-15 on the year. If Michigan State can guard the three point line effectively they should win Miles Bridges last game in East Lansing (again, sorry Karl).
I go to U of I, some basketball players are in my classes or have been previously, so I like these guys, but at the end of the day I don’t think they have enough to beat Michigan State in East Lansing. In their last matchup, the Illini played the Spartans well at home for about 80% of the game, until Michigan State realized they were Michigan State and put the Illini away with ease. Illinois is a team that does not give up and they’ll fight to the very end in this one, but I think Michigan State will do something similar to the last time these two teams met and pull away towards the end of the game.