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Illinois vs. Michigan State: NCAA Basketball Picks and Predictions

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Illinois vs. Michigan State: NCAA Basketball Picks and Predictions
Ayo Dosunmu #11 of the Illinois Fighting Illini goes up against Michigan State. Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images/AFP

Fading the Michigan State Spartans has been a profitable college basketball pick. Can the Illinois Fighting Illini cash in this Tuesday when they travel to Michigan? Let’s take a look at the odds and make a smart pick.

Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Michigan State Spartans

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021 – 7:00 P.M. ET at Breslin Center

We don’t always fade the Michigan State Spartans here at the ranch. But when we do, we make it rain; the Spartans (11-9 SU, 5-15 ATS) paid us out again last Tuesday, losing 75-65 to the Purdue Boilermakers as 5.5-point road dogs. Between fading Sparty and taking the Under when they started A.J. Hoggard at point guard, our 2020-21 NCAA basketball picks have been very tasty indeed.

Fortunately, we didn’t have anything riding on Saturday’s 78-71 upset win over the Indiana Hoosiers (–6.5 at home). Should that result scare us away from pounding the No. 5 Illinois Fighting Illini (16-5 SU, 12-8-1 ATS) this Tuesday night at the Bres? Probably not. If our math is right, the Illini are way underpriced after opening as 7-point road faves.

MSU Fright Song

Of course, Ken Pomeroy’s math has to be right, too. I like his chances better than mine. Here are the advanced stats we all know and crave: Illinois: No. 5 overall (No. 8 offense, No. 9 defense), plus-28.84 margin Michigan State: No. 65 overall (No. 88 offense, No. 50 defense), plus-13.12 margin

Hey, maybe the Spartans will get into the Tournament after all. It’s not looking very good right now, but at least they’ve moved up from No. 69 on Pomeroy’s efficiency charts. Nice. However, they’re still performing 15.72 points worse per 100 possessions than Illinois. They’ll have about 69-70 possessions to work with on Tuesday, so call it 11 points, then give Sparty two points for home court, and presto: Illinois –9. We’ve got the requisite 2-point margin between our projection and the NCAAB lines for putting a proper bet on the Illini.

Wooden Spoon

As always, before we open up those wallets and/or purses, we need to do some journalism. COVID-19 is of the main reasons Michigan State has struggled this year, but they got some good results from junior forward Gabe Brown (plus-6.4 BPM) versus Indiana. Brown scored 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting, including 4-of-8 from downtown, in what head coach Tom Izzo called his best performance since falling ill last month.

Given Brown’s resurgence and Sparty’s newfound hope to make the Big Dance, maybe we should temper our enthusiasm when it comes to fading MSU. Then again, the Illini have plenty to play for, too. They’re in the hunt for a No. 1 seed, and junior guard Ayo Dosunmu (plus-10.4 BPM), their top scorer at 21.2 points per game, is in contention for the John R. Wooden Award.

That extra motivation has Illinois on a seven-game winning streak at 5-2 ATS. Or does it? Maybe we should credit junior guard Jacob Grandison (plus-11.3 BPM) instead of any motivational angle. This winning streak just happens to coincide with Grandison’s elevation to the starting five; his strong two-way play has been even better than that of senior guard Da’Monte Williams (plus-9.6 BPM), who’s still giving Illinois great minutes off the bench. So yes, we’re going to fade Sparty one more time. It’s a moral imperative – but make it a smaller bet this time on the betting sites, just in case, and may the sphere be with you.

NCAAB Pick: Illinois –7 (–110) at Bovada (visit our Bovada Review)

Illinois -7(-110)
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*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.