Big Ten NCAA Basketball Picks: Back Illinois' Tempting Odds vs. Michigan State

Joe Catalano

Thursday, January 7, 2016 4:28 PM UTC

Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016 4:28 PM UTC

Michigan State head coach had lofty goals at the beginning of the season saying that he doesn't expect to lose, tonight, they face an average Illinois team. See who we like as our betting pick.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Illinois +13.5 
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle


Tip-off is scheduled tonight at 9:00 p.m. EST at the Jack Breslin Students Event Center in East Lansing, Michigan. According to 5Dimes, the Spartans are a 13.5 point betting favorite on the NCAA basketball odds.


Defense Has Led To Easy Victories
The Spartans are a top-notch defensive team. In fact, they've held 12 out of their 15 opponents to under 70 points per game. One game that MSU would like to have back is their recent 83-70 loss to Iowa, but the Spartans did bounce back in their most recent performance with a 69-61 over the Minnesota Golden Gophers.


Mr. Triple Double?
Normally, when a player averages a double-double per game, I'll make reference to it, but rarely do you see a player that averages a near triple-double and leading scorer, Denzel Valentine, is that guy for the Spartans.

For the season, Valentine is has been the main factor for this team's victories as he's averaged a whopping 18.5 points, 8 rebounds, and 7.1 assists per game. Not only that, he's a 40% shooter from beyond the arc. Along with their superb defense ,this is a a team that averages 80 points and 44 rebounds per game and the main reason for that is Denzel Valentine.

Unfortunately for Michigan State, they will be without the services of Valentine for the 4th straight time and he is expected to return for their next game. The Spartans have the defense to deal with Illinois. It's just a matter of producing enough offense to beat a very beatable team in the Fighting Illini.


Bryn Forbes
The Spartans are a team built on senior leadership and while the senior Valentine is unable to play, senior Bryn Forbes, has been picking up the slack.

For the season, Forbes is averaging 13.8 points per game and is a dead eye 3-point shooter at 47.2% for the year. After being nearly invisible in the loss to Iowa, Forbes bounced back against Minnesota with 20 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists while converting 4- 3 pointers. This could have been a team teetering with a perfect season before Valentine got injured, but they have one more obstacle before their superstar player comes back and Bryn Forbes must have a big game or Illinois will capitalize.


An Opportunity
As for Illinois, they started to get on a run, winning 5 straight games and then ran into a time period called inter-conference play. Since then, they have suffered back to back losses to Ohio State and Michigan. When they saw Michigan State on the schedule, they had to assume that it would turn out as a loss, but being that MSU doesn't have their best player suiting up, the Fighting Illini think that they can win this game.

Leading scorer, Kendrick Nunn (18.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 41.7% from 3 point range) can do it all on both ends of the court. He had also missed a handful of games and hasn't been efficient shooting-wise lately, but this guy is a stud. This is a major opportunity for Nunn to take control of this game and a win would look outstanding on Illinois' resume. Illinois will need to be more aggressive on the boards as they average a mere 33 rebounds per game and that won't cut it.

Star, Malcolm Hill (17.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists) has also been outstanding in all facets of the game this season, but he's shot poorly the last few games also. With these two elite players, Illinois should make this game competitive without Valentine playing. Take the Fighting Illini and the points as your NCAA basketball pick tonight.

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