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1/19 Big Ten Preview: Will Michigan State get back on track?

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Big Ten play rolls along with two Friday games.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Another Friday in the Big Ten dawns on us and we are met with a few decent match-ups. The most marquee of those features Michigan State, who has been the focus of many headlines since their loss to Michigan last Saturday. These headlines ask a similar question: What is wrong with Michigan State? This inquiry stems from the Spartans dropping two of their last three games. In their only victory in the three game stretch, it took overtime to defeat the lowly Rutgers Scarlet Knights. While the story of Michigan State is the tale that drives the day, there is another game to be played.

Two struggling teams, Wisconsin and Illinois, will face off at the Kohl Center later tonight. The Badgers have dropped three straight and the Illini have yet to win a Big Ten game. It may not be the prettiest of games, but it should be contentious, right?

So as you prepare for the day in college basketball, take these few Big Ten games into account...

Game of the Day

#6 Michigan State Spartans vs Indiana Hoosiers

  • Time/TV: 7:00PM ET - FS1
  • KenPom Spread: Michigan State (-16)

I mentioned this in our roundtable a couple of days ago, but it might be worth mentioning here. This is not the first time Michigan State has had a tumultuous stretch of conference play. I had brought up 2014-’15 where the Spartans went 12-6 in the Big Ten (21-10 overall) and ended up making it to the Final Four. This same question was asked of Tom Izzo and his team back then. They answered by making a deep March run, and I expect them to do something similar this season.

They do not necessarily get a lay-up game to try and regroup tonight though. Indiana has been pretty surprising, at least to me, given how shorthanded they are. They recently lost De’Ron Davis for the season due to an Achilles injury. Despite that blow, the Hoosiers have won three straight games in the conference. This current winning streak has put them at 4-2 in the conference, good for fifth in the standings.

This is by no means a game that Michigan State wants to play right now. Indiana is a dangerous team that has a head of steam and a chip on their shoulder. If the Spartans come out lax and uninspired, they will lose this game. If you are Tom Izzo, you have to hope the team responded to their poor stretch of play over the last two weeks. However, if they did not, Michigan State may drop another Big Ten contest.

  • Pick Against the Spread: Indiana

The Rest

Wisconsin Badgers vs Illinois Fighting Illini

  • Time/TV: 9:00PM ET - FS1
  • KenPom Spread: Wisconsin (-4)

If you are Brad Underwood and the Illini, you have to be puzzled to some degree. You play well in the non-conference, coming into Big Ten play over .500. Now, you sit at 10-9, overall with zero conference wins on your resume. So, despite holding a winning overall record, you sit at the bottom of the Big Ten. Meanwhile, Wisconsin, who is still under .500 record wise, is looking down at you from the conference ladder. How could something that seemed so sweet, turn so sour in such a short amount of time?

Part of it is discipline and the other part is lack of efficiency. Over the course of the last four games, Illinois has turned the ball over at least 12 times in each of those games, including two games with at least 16 giveaways. Also in this four game stretch, they have failed to shoot above 25 percent from three-point range three times. Even when they did shoot over 25 percent, against Iowa, they gave up 104 points. Meaning, they could have shot well, but their defense was so anemic that it did not make a difference. I mean, 104 points, to Iowa? That is inexcusable.

Now, they face a Badger team that has fallen in their last three Big Ten games since starting 2-1 in league play. Neither team is terribly good for Big Ten standards, but I cannot trust Illinois based on their performance in conference play.

  • Pick Against the Spread: Wisconsin