Michigan State has a chance to burnish its NCAA Tournament profile Thursday night when it takes on undermanned and 10th-ranked Illinois on the road in a key Big Ten matchup.
The Spartans (9-6, 1-3 Big Ten) have only one signature win thus far, an 88-64 rout of then-No. 6 Baylor on Dec. 16 in Detroit. Tom Izzo’s team has losses against Top 10 opponents Duke and Arizona at neutral sites and a 70-57 home defeat to then-No. 23 Wisconsin. Michigan State’s season of inconsistency continued Sunday with an 88-74 loss at Northwestern in which it allowed the Wildcats to shoot 54.2%.
Illinois (11-3, 2-1) is expected to again be without leading scorer Terrance Shannon Jr., who was suspended by the team Dec. 28 following a rape charge stemming from an alleged incident that occurred in September in Kansas when he attended the Illini’s football game in Lawrence. Shannon, who is second in the Big Ten in scoring at 21.7 points per game, sought a temporary restraining order against the school Monday, which could lead to his reinstatement.
Izzo seeking response after sluggish loss
Michigan State had a five-game winning streak snapped with Sunday’s defeat, which left Izzo praising Northwestern’s aggressiveness and bemoaning the lack of it from his team. While not calling out any individual players, it was clear Izzo was not happy, and with good reason. The Spartans, who were ranked fourth in the AP Preseason Top 25, were outscored 21-2 in points off turnovers and forced Northwestern into just five turnovers while committing 13.
Tyson Walker paced Michigan State with 27 points, while Jaden Adkins and A.J. Hoggard added 13 apiece. The Spartans did hit 9 of 19 from 3-point range, extending an excellent stretch of perimeter shooting in which they have connected at a 44.9% clip (62-for-138) over their last seven games.
Michigan State, though, has lost eight of its last 10 Big Ten road games dating back to last season, a stretch that started with a 75-66 loss in Champaign on Jan. 13. The Spartans have not knocked off a Top 10 team on the road since upending eighth-ranked Wisconsin 86-74 on Jan. 21, 2022, and are 3-6 against ranked Illini teams in Champaign since the 1996-97 season.
Illini find ways to score without Shannon
Illinois has been stewing since an 83-78 loss at top-ranked Purdue last Friday, but the Illini nearly erased a 21-point deficit in the final 13 minutes behind Marcus Domask, who had 26 points. Quincy Guerrier added 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Luke Goode made four 3-pointers and chipped in 16 points.
Domask will likely be the Illini’s go-to scorer as long as Shannon is unavailable. The Southern Illinois transfer is averaging 14.1 points and 3.2 assists per game. Guerrier, who notched his fifth double-double, is averaging 11.5 points and a team-best 7.6 rebounds. Goode has been one of Illinois’ top perimeter threats all season, connecting on 41.4% of his 3-point tries to rank sixth in the Big Ten.
Illinois is third in the Big Ten in scoring at 83.5 points per game, while its plus-10.6 rebound margin is second in the conference and 12th among all Division I teams.
Checking the lines
Shannon’s absence has created a lack of consensus on Michigan’s betting apps, with Michigan State ranging from +2.5 underdogs at FanDuel (-105) to +4 at Caesars (-110). The most common spread is Michigan State +3.5, with PointsBet and BetMGM offering -110 and DraftKings close behind at -112. BetRivers has a +3 listing at -110.
Caesars Illinois having the largest spread also means bettors looking for value on the moneyline should head there as well with its +152 offering. BetMGM has the best moneyline play among those with Michigan State +3.5 with a +140 listing, followed by DraftKings (+136) and PointsBet (+130).
The total has a range from 147.5 points at FanDuel (-110) to 149 at Caesars (-110). The over has hit in three of the last four matchups between the two teams, while Illinois has covered in three of the last four meetings in Champaign.
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