- Michigan State coming off huge road win at Wisconsin
- Fighting Illini have dropped two in a row
- Illinois’ Kofi Cockburn questionable with concussion
The #21 Illinois Fighting Illini found out they look a lot different without their 7′, 285-pound center roaming the interior. Kofi Cockburn missed Friday’s visit to Maryland with a concussion and as a result, Illinois lost 81-65 for their second defeat in a row. Things don’t get any easier with the #10 Michigan State Spartans coming to town fresh off a huge road win in Madison. The Illini are still a -5.5 favorite for this first meeting of the season between the two teams.
Texas Tech Red Raiders vs Kansas Jayhawks Schedule
- Where: State Farm Center, Champaign, Illinois
- When: Tuesday, January 25th, 9:00 PM ET
- How to Watch: ESPN2
Can MSU Win a Second Straight Road Contest?
It’s tough to get road wins in the Big Ten, or so we thought before Michigan State went to the Kohl Center and dismantled Wisconsin 86-74 on Friday night. That was just the second home loss of the year for the Badgers and the win put the Spartans atop the Big Ten by themselves with a 6-1 conference record.
It was a balanced scoring effort on Friday for Tom Izzo’s squad as Malik Hall had 14 points to lead five players in double figures. The Spartans were able to withstand 25 points from the Big Ten’s second-leading scorer Johnny Davis as well as Wisconsin’s Brad Davison hitting 6-10 three-pointers on his way to 22 points. Michigan State hit 53% of their shots from the floor in a road game, something that has to give them confidence heading to Champaign on Tuesday night.
Michigan State would obviously get a boost if the 7-foot Cockburn cannot go in this game. These two teams met just once last year with the Spartans getting an 81-72 win over then #5 Illinois who had won 17 straight games prior. Cockburn had just 13 points and 6 rebounds in that matchup so Izzo does have a game plan to contain the big man.
Can Somebody Step Up if Cockburn Cannot Go?
Illinois coach Brad Underwood was disappointed in his team’s performance on Friday night in College Park. Cockburn suffered a concussion the game prior and did not travel with the team to Maryland, but that also gave somebody a huge opportunity to step up in the absence of his 21.1 points and 11.8 rebounds per game. Alfonso Plummer did have 18 points while Jordan Grandison and Trent Frazier combined for 27, but there was a huge defensive presence missing as Terrapins forward Donta Scott had 25 points off the bench.
Illinois still has the #3 scoring offense in the Big Ten (79.3 ppg) but they are also up against a Michigan State team with the 4th best defense in the conference giving up just 66.1 ppg. This is also a matchup of two of the top three rebounding teams in the Big Ten, but Illinois effectiveness on the boards would obviously take a huge hit without their All-American caliber center.
It’s not just hyperbole that losing Cockburn would be devastating to the Fighting Illini as he has a double-double in 11 of 14 games this season. Michigan State has a 7-footer in Marcus Bingham, Jr., but he hasn’t grabbed double-digit rebounds in the last five games.
January 25th College Basketball Picks
This spread of Illinois -5.5 seems kind of lofty even if Cockburn were 100% healthy but not knowing his status makes Michigan State look very appealing. The Spartans just showed they can go on the road in the conference and get a victory, and if it weren’t for a 64-62 hiccup at home against Northwestern then Michigan State would be riding an 11-game win streak into this matchup.
Michigan State 69 – Illinois 63
- Michigan State win
College Basketball Picks Against the Spread Today:
- Michigan State +5.5