TV Schedule: Thursday, Dec. 7, 9:00 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Arena: Breslin Center, East Lansing, Mich.
Line: Michigan State (-13.5)
On the road and without their star player Denzel Valentine, the Michigan State Spartans recently lost their first game of the season to the Iowa Hawkeyes, but they will head into their Thursday night matchup with the Illinois Fighting Illini full of confidence. It was highly unlikely that the Spartans would survive a difficult Big 10 schedule without a single loss as it is, so to get it out of the way early in conference play bodes well for the remainder of the season.
Illinois, however, will be fully aware that they might not be getting Michigan State at a better time. Not only is Valentine out for MSU, but the Fighting Illini will get back Khalid Lewis from injury. Lewis is a key rotation player who has averaged around 23 minutes per game for a majority of the season.
That being said, Illinois is arguably the worst team in the Big 10, and Michigan State should have no trouble at all. Ranked No. 143 in points per game and No. 240 in points allowed per game, Tom Izzo’s defense should manhandle the floundering Illinois’ offense while Deyonta Davis, Bryn Forbes, Eron Harris and Co. rip apart the Fighting Illini’s suspect defense.
The Spartans are favored to win this game by just over 13 points, but do not be surprised if Michigan State, who are playing at home, absolutely destroy the much weaker Fighting Illini by 20 or more. Valentine’s absence might hurt MSU against quality opponents like Iowa, but Michigan State’s second team might be able to win against this Illinois squad at home on Thursday night.
Prediction: Michigan State 78, Illinois 62