Michigan State vs Illinois: Betting Odds, Picks, and Predictions (1/25/22)

Michigan State vs Illinois Betting Odds

Tom Izzo and Sparty just picked up another big win, taking down a highly ranked Wisconsin team in Madison as underdogs. Just when you think Izzo is down – following a bad home loss to Northwestern – he bounces right back up.

However, Illinois will present another animal. Not only are the Illini very talented, but they’re also coming off back-to-back losses (Purdue, Maryland) and desperately need a victory.

Moreover, Michigan State and Illinois are sitting at No. 1 and No. 2 in the Big Ten standings, respectively. MSU holds the slight half-game lead at 6-1 in conference play, while Illinois is now 6-2.

Therefore, there’s plenty on the line in this Tuesday night matchup in Champaign.

Sparty is catching over five points in this monumental matchup. Is that too many? Or will Brad Underwood’s squad roll in this game?

Michigan State Spartans Odds

At 15-3, Michigan State is sitting pretty. The Spartans are still top-10 in the AP poll and will easily make the tournament in a higher-ranked seed.

However, I’m still rather unimpressed with the Spartans’ resume.

At No. 15 in KenPom, Illinois will represent the highest-rated team the Spartans have played since November. In non-conference play, MSU played Kansas (KenPom No. 9) and Baylor (KenPom No. 3) and lost both games by double-digits.

The Wisconsin win was special considering how the Badgers have played this season, but how much can we trust the Spartans right now?

Probably not a ton. The Spartans are due for major negative regression, per Shot Quality’s metrics, which projects records based on the quality of shots taken and allowed. Shot Quality has Michigan State at 10-8 this season rather than 15-3, which is rather substantial.

It must come from the 3-point shooting. Michigan State is sixth this season in 3-point percentage (39.2%) while being sub-240 in 3-point rate (33.9% 3PA/FGA). Sparty is also top-40 in 3-point defense (30%).

All the numbers together seem a tad unsustainable. Combine that with MSU’s lackluster strength of schedule, and I may be looking to fade Sparty going forward.

But Izzo generally has his team playing the best come March, so it’s probably a good thing Sparty hasn’t gotten to the thick of the schedule.

Plus, this team has all the pieces to be great.

The backcourt tandem of AJ Hoggard and Tyson Walker – while they turn the ball over a lot – record assists at crazy high rates. Both are top-10 in assist rate and Sparty is 10th in assist rate as a team because of it.

Meanwhile, the wings have been carrying the scoring load. Max Christie and Gabe Brown are combining for 25 points per game with a combined ORtg above 110.

And finally, the Spartans have the defense to compete with anyone, particularly in the interior. Marcus Bingham Jr. is one of the best rim protectors in the country, ranking 11th in block rate and above the 60th percentile in post-up points per possession allowed.

It’s a well-rounded, complete team that could compete for a championship or get knocked out of the first round. It’s a bit wait-and-see with Sparty.

Illinois Fighting Illini Odds

Unfortunately for Illinois, there’s an issue looming over its head.

The Illini’s star player and Wooden Award candidate Kofi Cockburn is still in concussion protocols. He missed Friday night’s battle against Maryland, and his absence ended up being the main reason the Illini dropped that road game.

Without him on the floor Tuesday night, the Illini will have a very tough time competing with Michigan State.

Underwood hasn’t said anything, and we likely won’t until game-time. So, keep a close eye on the injury report for placing wagers.

It’ll also be interesting to see how Andre Curbelo continues to come back into the fold. Curbelo has missed 12 games this season, due to concussion and neck issues. But he dominated in his return against Purdue (20 points, six rebounds, three assists, no turnovers).

He then followed it up with a gross performance against Maryland (four points, 1-for-6 shooting, three turnovers). This perfectly articulates Curbelo’s season – unpredictable and inconsistent.

When Curbelo is rolling, he’s unstoppable. His dribble penetration combined with his finishing and playmaking ability makes him unstoppable in pick-and-roll and ball-screen situations. And he has a flair for the dramatic.

But he can make some bone-headed decisions. Including late-game, dumb turnovers against Marquette and Cincinnati.

For example – in that same Purdue game – if Jaden Ivey doesn’t bail on defending Alfanso Plummer to triple-team Curbelo at the end of the first overtime, Curbelo had just dribbled himself into an impossible double-team with 12 seconds left.

It was a good look and a good pass by Curbelo. But it was very lucky.

Speaking of Plummer, he and Trent Frazier broke out offensively during Curbelo’s absence. The two are combining for close to 30 points per game with a combined ORtg over 120. It’s been awesome to watch those two as primary shot-creators.

Wing player Jacob Grandison also heated up playing at the 3 and 4. Grandison has a 130.6 ORtg in 25.9 minutes per game.

Either way, the Illini have no shortage of astounding playmakers and offensive weapons. But the team’s success will ultimately hinge on Cockburn’s return.

Michigan State vs Illinois Prediction and Pick

My pick: Michigan State +5.5 (-110 at BetMGM)

If Cockburn is confirmed out, this line will only drop. Likely towards MSU +3.5 or +4.

However, even if Cockburn plays, I still like the Spartans at this number.

5.5 points is simply too many points in a battle between the Big Ten’s top two teams. There’s no conference with a bigger home-court advantage than the Big Ten, but this is still too many points.

Especially when you consider that the Spartans are 4-0 against the spread on the road this season.

The Spartans do all the right things. They share the ball well, play good defense, and are great on the boards. And Izzo is too good of a coach to let a game like this get away from him.

Whoever wins this game won’t win by more than two possessions. So, give me the points, and hope Cockburn is ruled out for some good closing line value.

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Tanner joined Lineups to cover everything, but he has vast experience in, and unlimited passion for, Major League Baseball and NCAA Basketball. He’s a McGill University grad and former (Canadian) Division-I alpine ski racer who now spends his time drinking beer and betting home underdogs. Patrick Mahomes is a poor man’s Tom Brady.

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