Will Michigan State be Caught in Trap vs. Illinois on Tuesday?

Matthew Jordan

Monday, February 19, 2018 4:39 PM UTC

Monday, Feb. 19, 2018 4:39 PM UTC

On paper, No. 2 Michigan State should have little trouble with a bad Illinois team in Big Ten action Tuesday night in East Lansing. However, NCAA basketball isn’t played on paper.

Illinois (13-15, 10-13 ATAS) at No. 2 Michigan State (26-3, 14-13 ATS)Free NCAAB Pick: IllinoisBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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It’s a 7 p.m. ET tip on ESPN Tuesday from the Breslin Center in East Lansing when the AP No. 2 Michigan State Spartans host Illinois in what should be their final meeting of the season. I highly doubt that Illinois wins a game in next week’s Big Ten Tournament – that tournament is starting a week earlier than other Power 5 conference ones because the Big Ten is holding it at Madison Square Garden and the Big East wasn’t about to change its schedule for its tournament there – to earn another shot at Sparty, which is looking like it will be the conference’s regular-season champion.

MSU was a 12-point favorite when it visited Illinois on Jan. 22 and won 87-74, game No. 2 of the Spartans’ current 10-game winning streak. Star Miles Bridges scored 31 points, and freshman stud Jaren Jackson Jr. had 21 points and 11 rebounds. Not often you will beat any team in NCAA basketball turning it over 25 times, but Michigan State did (most by the school since November 2005) by shooting a State Farm Center record 68.2 percent from the field (best by school sine 2004). Kipper Nichols led Illinois, which hit 43.1 percent from the field, with a career-high 27 points.

Illinois has managed to cover in five of its past seven trips to East Lansing.

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Comeback For The Ages

I believe this has the potential to be a huge trap game for Michigan State. For one, it has a much tougher matchup Sunday at Wisconsin to close the regular season with the chance to potentially wrap up the Big Ten title.

Second, I wonder how much energy this team had to expend in Saturday’s unlikely 65-60 win at Northwestern. The Spartans were down as many as 27 in the first half but outscored Northwestern 38-11 in the second half to win 65-60. The Wildcats missed 17 straight shots at one point after intermission and were just 3-for-26 overall in the half. It was the largest comeback win in school and Big Ten history, tied for the biggest anywhere this decade and the fifth-largest ever. Sophomore guard Cassius Winston paced the Spartans with a near triple-double of 17 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.

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3/16/10 Fairfield 101, George Mason 96 (OT). Mason led 63-36 with 16:08 left.
11/23/16 Utah Valley 88, Denver 85. Denver led 54-27 with :51 left in the 1st half. https://t.co/BZssvx9GaI

— Ken Pomeroy (@kenpomeroy) February 17, 2018

"That's the greatest comeback in Michigan State history," coach Tom Izzo said after the game. "Usually when we're 27 down, we're starting the bus."

No. 1 on that list, if you are wondering, was on Feb. 16, 1994, when Kentucky trailed at LSU by 31 points with 15 minutes, 30 second to play but somehow won 99-95. "I can't believe it," Kentucky Coach Rick Pitino said then. "I know I've never, ever witnessed anything like it." Prior to that, Duke held the record for the largest comeback when it rallied from a 56-27 halftime deficit to beat Tulane by 74-72 on Dec. 30, 1950.

Illinois ended a four-game losing streak and got just its third Big Ten win of the season with a 72-66 home upset of NCAA Tournament bubble team Nebraska (that loss won’t help) on Sunday. Leron Black had a career-high 28 points to go with seven rebounds. Black has scored in double-figures a team-high 23 times this season. The Illini have been competitive many nights, losing nine games by single digits (one a buzzer-beater earlier to Nebraska) and three in overtime. Junior forward Michael Finke missed his third consecutive game Sunday with a concussion. He’s averaging 9.6 points and 4.8 rebounds this season. Too early to tell if he’ll play Tuesday.

There’s no shot that MSU loses this game, but the Illini might have a bit of confidence right now and I do believe that Northwestern game took a bit out of the Spartans. They have covered just one of their past eight after a win this season as it is. Take the points on for Tuesday’s NCAA basketball pick.

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