Michigan State Spartans at Illinois Fighting Illini Betting Preview

Michigan State Spartans at Illinois Fighting Illini Betting Preview

First place in the Big Ten standings is on the line on Tuesday night when the No. 10 Michigan State Spartans visit the No. 24 Illinois Fighting Illini. The key conference matchup is scheduled for a 7 pm ET opening tip at the State Farm Center in Champaign, Ill.

The Spartans (15-3, 6-1) currently lead the Big Ten by a half-game over both the Fighting Illini and the Wisconsin Badgers. Michigan State bounced back from its first conference loss with a dominant road win over the Badgers on Friday night.

Illinois (13-5, 6-2) has dropped two in a row, including an 81-65 road loss to the Maryland Terrapins on Friday night. The Fighting Illini are 6-2 at home this season, though one of those losses came in their last game at the State Farm Center on Jan. 17.

The Fighting Illini are favored by 5.5 points at home, with the over/under for the game set at 143 points.

Spreading It Out

It’s hard to pinpoint just one player for teams to watch out for on the offensive end for Michigan State because the Spartans are so balanced in their attack. The Spartans had five players in double figures in scoring in the win over Wisconsin, including three off the bench.

Freshman guard Max Christie had 12 points in the win, and he’s been sensational in his first collegiate season. The five-time conference Freshman of the Week is averaging 10.5 points and 3.8 rebounds per game, and he’s shown a penchant for locking down opposing wings.

Forward Gabe Brown leads Michigan State with 13.6 points per game, hitting 40 3-pointers. Forward Malik Hall is also a dangerous scorer, both inside and out, averaging 9.9 points and 5.0 rebounds and hitting 61.4 percent from the floor, including 55.9 percent from three-point range.

Will He Play?

The biggest question mark for Illinois in this game is the availability of center Kofi Cockburn. The 7-foot junior missed the loss to Maryland while in concussion protocol, and his status is unknown for this contest.

Cockburn leads the Illini in scoring and rebounding with 21.1 points and 11.8 rebounds. He’s a presence in the paint on both ends, and he’d like to gain a little revenge against Michigan State, which frustrated him into just 13 points and six rebounds in a loss in East Lansing last season.

There is plenty of perimeter firepower on the Illini, though it would be easier to get it going if Cockburn is in the post. Illinois struggled to score in the latter stages of the loss to Maryland, as the Terrapins closed on an 11-0 run. The interior defense of the Illini was lacking in that game as well, showing the need for Cockburn against a deep Michigan State front line.

Guard Alfonso Plummer is second on the team in scoring at 16.4 points per game, while Trent Frazier is chipping in with 13.4 points and 3.6 assists per contest. The Illini have guard Andre Curbelo back and playing again, as he’s missed time with a neck injury. The sophomore guard can be a pest on the defensive end, which could be a big plus against an MSU team that leads the Big Ten in turnovers per game.

Spartans Stay Close

Illinois with Cockburn is a different team, and playing at home will certainly help the Fighting Illini. But Michigan State showed with its win at Wisconsin that it’s not going to be an easy team to beat no matter where it plays. Look for another inspired effort from coach Tom Izzo’s squad in this one, as it at least covers the 5.5-point spread if not wins outright.

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