Michigan State Spartans vs. Illinois Fighting Illini Preview and Pick

Michigan State Spartans (23-6), PK, o/u 123 @ Illinois Fighting Illini, PK, o/u 123, Assembly Hall, Champaign, Illinois, 9 p.m. Eastern, Thursday
By Oracle at Predictem.com

The 18th ranked Michigan State Spartans are glad it’s March.

After a January that saw them finish ranked 8th in the country, Michigan State went an un-Spartanlike 3-4 in February, including 0-3 against ranked opponents. However, they broke out of their slump in a big way with a huge 103-74 win against Indiana on Sunday.

Then there is the Fighting Illini.

Illinois has lost 13 of their last 17 games overall. The four wins that Illinois has had have been against the likes of the bottom teams in the Big Ten including Iowa, Michigan, and Northwestern. Illinois most recent win against Iowa, 58-47, is their highest offensive output in their last four games.

Bettors may run into a pick ‘me line for this contest, as some internet sportsbooks have opened with the PK line. Other sports books have Michigan State as 2-point favorites. The over/under stands at 123 as well.

The Fighting Illini have struggled all year long on the offensive side of the ball, ranking 260th in the country with 64.4 points per game. They aren’t very much of a deep threat either, hitting just 30.9% from downtown (315th in the nation).

Illinois has just two players average in double figures, with Shaun Pruitt leading the way at 12.6 points per game. Pruitt has been the only offensive spark lately, shooting 70% from the field in his last seven games, including 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting in the win against Iowa.

However, Pruitt, along with the rest of his team, was held in check in the first match up with Michigan State this year. He went just 2-of-8 from the field, as there were no Illinois players who scored more than 7 points in the 51-41 loss. As a team, they shot just 26.4% for the game, including 4-of-22 from three-point land.

The Spartans didn’t necessarily play their best game of the year either, scoring just 51 points, which is its third lowest total of the year. They also didn’t hit a single three-pointer (0-for-9).

Drew Neitzel led MSU in the win with 15 points. HE also snapped out of a funk against Indiana on Sunday with 17 points, after being held to just 3 against Wisconsin in a lopsided loss. Neitzel was just one of seven Spartans in double figures against the Hoosiers, as they seemed to do nothing wrong in the win.

You can tell both teams play in the Big Ten conference by their defensive stats alone. Michigan State lets up just 62.3 points per game (43rd nation), and holds opponents to just 39.7% shooting (26th).

Illinois is impressive in its own right defensively, letting up less than Michigan State at 61.4 pints and less field goal percentage at 39.4%.

Ilinois hasn’t done well for bettors at home with a 3-9-1 record ATS and are 11-17-1 overall on the year. Although they have a low-scoring offense, the over dominates when playing in Champaign at 8-4-1. Illinois has struggled recently when coming into the game an underdog of at least 6.5 points, covering just one in its last seven games.

A trend that bodes well for Illinois, though, is the fact that they are 4-1 ATS against the Spartans in the last five overall match ups.

The under should be a strong play for bettors, as it has come in the last six head-to-head meetings in Illinois and four straight times overall.

It should be a knock ‘me down, drag ‘me out kind of Big Ten game.

Oracle’s Pick: Take the Spartans to win on the road.