Michigan State prevailed against Illinois 73-63 to remain undefeated in Big Ten Conference play. This was Illinois’ first conference defeat. The Spartans showed flashes of greatness today, but still haven’t played their best basketball. That’s not good news for Big Ten foes. Illinois had a rather soft Big Ten schedule to this point, but that changed with their visit to East Lansing. Illinois battled hard and didn’t give up even when they trailed by 23 points in the 2nd half. In the end, Michigan State was just too much for the Illini to handle.
Michigan State returned many players from last years NCAA tournament runner-up team. This year’s Spartans have struggled at times, but they seem to be turning the corner now in Big Ten play with their 5-0 conference record. It all starts with junior point guard Kalin Lucas. Lucas scored 20 points and had 4 assists today, but his leadership is what is most valuable for the Spartans. When he’s aggressive on offense, he puts TONS of pressure on the opposing defense with his dribble penetration. This opens up many other options for the Michigan State offense. Tom Izzo’s teams always play tough man-to-man defense and battle hard on the boards. This Spartan team is no different. I see the Spartans winning the Big Ten title, especially with Purdue losing 3 straight games. Michigan State will most likely have a seed anywhere from 1 to 3. They have the talent and coaching to make another final four run.
Illinois, in my opinion, started their Big Ten schedule today. The Illini beat up on the bottom part of the Big Ten their first 4 games of conference play, but starting with this game against Michigan State, the schedule toughens up. Bruce Weber’s team plays an unselfish style of basketball that is fun to watch. They have 4 players averaging double figures in points. They get after you on the defensive end too, but today they just couldn’t match-up. I see Illinois finishing in the middle part of the Big Ten, but they should be a NCAA tournament team.
50 teams to go…..59 days until Selection Sunday!