Michigan State vs. Illinois prediction: College basketball odds, pick
Illinois is in a bad place.
The Illini are without Terrence Shannon Jr., their leading scorer and best player who is serving a suspension after being charged with rape.
How will they respond Thursday night vs. Michigan State?
Well, theyre 2-1 since Shannons departure, with dominating blowout wins over Fairleigh Dickinson and Northwestern paired with a five-point road loss to Purdue.
Honestly, thats not bad.
Southern Illinois transfer Marcus Domask is turning into a star, dropping 58 points over his past two contests.
Hes been excellent as an isolation scorer, which is huge for Brad Underwoods iso-heavy offense.
That begs the question: Can Sparty stop Domask one-on-one? The answer is a resounding yes.
For all its troubles on the offensive en, Michigan State boasts a rock-solid interior defense.
Malik Hall, Jaden Akins and Coen Carr are good wing defenders, and the Spartans rank top-40 nationally in isolation PPP allowed (0.78).
The Spartans allow only 25 paint points per game, ranking in the 94th percentile of D-I teams. Domask is primarily an interior bucket-getter, and I expect hell struggle against Sparty on the block.
Plus, Shannons absence as a ball-screen initiator and fellow shot-creator will show in this matchup.
Illinois guard/forward Quincy Guerrier Getty ImagesIllinois bail-out option is cutting and posting with Dain Dainja and Quincy Guerrier. But, again, Michigan State boasts a strong interior defense.
The Spartans excel at defending cutters (1.07 PPP allowed, 78th percentile) and are above the D-I average against posters (0.82 PPP allowed, 58th percentile).
On the other end of the court, Sparty runs a guard-focused, ball-screen-heavy attack spearheaded by the elite backcourt of Tyson Walker and AJ Hoggard.
Unfortunately, theyre getting nothing from their frontcourt, scoring inefficiently on the interior.
This means opposing offenses can space the floor and play aggressively on the perimeter, denying good 3-point looks.
So, Michigan States offense devolves into dribble-drive, midrange shots from Walker. Its an inefficient way to play modern basketball.
Even worse, Illinois is an elite midrange defense, ranking 11th nationally in midrange PPP allowed (0.73).
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Even without Shannon, Illinois has the individual defenders to defend on an island specifically, Domask, Luke Goode and Coleman Hawkins.
Michigan States bailout option is off-ball-screen actions to pop open Walker from deep.
But Illinois also excels at defending off-ball-screen actions (0.97 PPP allowed, 16th nationally), and the Illini run guys off the 3-point line (22nd nationally in 3-point rate allowed).
What does this all mean?
It means a low-scoring rock fight.
Expect Sparty to peddle in the midrange and get shut down by Illinois, while the Illini wont be able to generate interior isolation buckets against Michigan State.
The past few Illinois-Michigan State battles have soared over the total, but that was with Shannon.
Without him, Illinois loses its most viable path to offense.
And Sparty had real interior offense in the past few matchups, especially with spot-up legend Joey Hauser.
Michigan State wont have open lanes through without his spacing and driving.
So, Ill happily bet the Under 148.
I see these teams playing in the mid-60s, with the game eventually landing around 135 combined points.Be sure to get the best price by shopping around at every Illinois sports betting app available.
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