NCAA Basketball Spread: Michigan State -3.5
Illinois blew a late lead Saturday night in Minnesota. The Fighting Illini dropped to 4-4 in the Big Ten with that loss to the Golden Gophers. Michigan State is trying to keep pace with Ohio State at the top of the Big Ten standings. Tom Izzo picked up his 400th career victory last week, and the Spartans sit at number ten in the polls right now. Can Illinois get back on track or will Michigan State pick up a big road win?
Draymond Green leads the Spartans in both points and rebounds per game. Green averages 15.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. He has logged major minutes in all four of his years with the Spartans. Keith Appling and Brandon Wood have both stepped up in the backcourt this year. Appling is a sophomore point guard who was a star in high school. He will likely be the team leader in the next year or two. Wood transferred to Michigan State from Valparaiso, and the team has benefited quite a bit from having improved depth at the guard spot.
Tom Izzo’s teams always rebound extremely well, and this year is no different. This team crashes the boards and does all the right things fundamentally to box out and get great position. The Spartans are much improved on the defensive end this season. Opponents are shooting just 38.0% from the floor against Michigan State. This year’s team has much better chemistry than last year’s underachieving squad.
Bruce Weber had to be fuming after the Fighting Illini literally gave a game away at Minnesota on Saturday. The Fighting Illini have struggled with consistency this year. They have beaten Ohio State and Gonzaga already this year, but they have dropped games that they really should have won as well. Brandon Paul had a massive breakout game against Ohio State when he dropped 43 points on the Buckeyes. Paul can create his own shot at any time, and his athletic ability makes him a tough matchup for opponents. Meyers Leonard is a solid post presence for Illinois, but he needs to stay out of foul trouble.
The defense has been extremely inconsistent this year for Illinois. The Fighting Illini are struggling against teams who shoot it well from deep. Opponents are knocking down 36% of their attempted three-pointers this year. Illinois has lost three straight games after starting out 4-1 in the Big Ten, and they badly need a win in this one.
These teams split their season series last year. Illinois badly needs a win here and I think they either keep this one very close or win.
Free College Basketball Pick: Illinois +3.5
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