Both Michigan State and Illinois enter their Tuesday night matchup in the midst of slumps. The Spartans have lost a rare three in a row while the 22nd-ranked Illini are on a two-game skid. The great thing about their game on Tuesday night is one of them has to win, thus ending the streak. Who will it be? Coach Rick has an idea.
Game: Michigan State Spartans (16-8, 11-13 ATS) at Illinois Fighting Illini (16-7, 11-10-1 ATS)
When: 9:00 PM ET, Tuesday, February 11th, 2020
Where: State Farm Center, Champaign, Illinois
Current Line: ILL +1.5 Total: 141.5
TV Coverage: ESPN
When the 2019-20 college basketball season started back in November, Michigan State was the No. 1 team in the nation, a favorite to win the Big Ten and the national title. Illinois was just another Big Ten team that might have a chance at an NCAA tourney bid.
Fast-forward and it’s the Illini who are second in the Big Ten standings.
Head coach Brad Underwood’s team had won seven straight conference games before its recent two-game skid. The two losses are nothing to be ashamed of, as Illinois dropped a 72-65 decision at No. 18 Iowa followed by a 75-66 loss to No. 9 Maryland.
If Michigan State is going to end this three-game losing streak, it all starts with point guard Cassius Winston. Over the past three games, Winston, a preseason player of the year candidate, is shooting 37.9 percent which includes just 9-of-24 from 3-point range. Opponents are playing Winston up close and physically and it has paid off.
While Winston has struggled, players like Aaron Henry, Foster Loyer, Gabe Brown, and Rocket Watts have failed to step up and take some of the heat off of Winston. The four Spartans are a miserable 8-of-30 from 3-point range over the course of this three-game losing streak.
The Illini are led by guard Ayo Dosunmo who averages 15.8 points a game and 7-foot freshman Kofi Cockburn, who averages 13.9 points and 9.0 rebounds.
The pair, as well as the rest of the Illini, struggled when Maryland went to a zone defense after Illinois had built a 14-point first-half lead. You can bet Underwood will have his players ready if Michigan State does the same.
The loss to the Terrapins was the Illini’s first home loss in Big Ten play this season. Illinois is 5-1 at home against Big Ten opponents. Playing at the State Farm Center on Tuesday night should be a big advantage for the Illini as the home team is 5-1 ATS in the last six Illini-Spartans matchups.
Michigan State has found playing on the road to be difficult. The Spartans road to a Big Ten title and a run in the 2020 NCAA tournament doesn’t get any easier either. The Spartans have remaining games with No. 9 Maryland (twice), No. 21 Iowa, and No. 13 Penn State.
Illinois at Michigan State | Winston Scores 21 in Win | Jan. 2, 2020
The Spartans beat Illinois at home in the first game of the season. Winston scored 21 points and dished out six assists in a 76-56 win back on January 2. But, Michigan State is just 5-5 in its last ten games and is just 1-7 ATS in its last eight road games.
Illinois has won seven of its last nine and the home-court advantage will be the difference on Tuesday. This should be a tough low-scoring affair as two teams battle for their Big Ten lives.
Today’s NCAAB Free Pick Against the Spread: Illinois +1.5
A native of Western Pennsylvania, Rick, a Generation X-er, who now lives just north of the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan. A former high school, college, and professional football player, Rick now spends his time as a high school coach and as a personal quarterback trainer. An all-state high school quarterback, he went on to become an Academic All-American at Division II Indiana University of PA. He later coached at his alma mater helping lead the program to the 1990 NCAA Division II national championship game. Rick has also served as a high school head coach and as an assistant in Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan.
His passion for sports writing started when he was the sports editor for his high school newspaper and continued when he worked as a sportswriter for the Jamestown (New York) Post-Journal in the early 1990s. A true sports fanatic, Rick enjoys all things Pittsburgh: Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins. The Immaculate Reception, the 1979 We Are Family Pirates, and the ’91-’92 Penguins are among his favorites. After working as an educator and athletic director for several years, he again took up sports writing and has contributed to several websites and publications, including Coach & Player magazine, X & O Labs, American Football Monthly, and many others.
When not consumed with coaching, watching, thinking about, or writing about football and other seasonal sports, he finds himself working out like he was still in college and reading everything from military history to Brad Thor novels. Rick has also been chasing rock god stardom as a drummer who has played with bands that have opened for the likes of Fuel, Days of the New, and Alien Ant Farm. He continues to play with his church worship group. Most importantly, Rick is married to the love of his life, Lisa, and has two beautiful daughters.