Coming off a 75-50 defeat on Friday night at the Kohl Center to the Wisconsin Badgers to extend their losing streak to five games, the Illinois Fighting Illini must regroup quickly for a matchup with the ninth-ranked Michigan State Spartans. Contrary to Illinois losing by twenty plus points, Michigan State defeated Indiana by 28 points at home on Friday night.
Tom Izzo’s squad is led by sophomore sensation and National Player of the Year candidate Miles Bridges, who is averaging 16.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. The Spartans have plenty of talented players surrounding Bridges, making them extremely difficult to play against.
“You won’t see a better dunk all year!”
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) January 20, 2018
A few of the guys surrounding Miles Bridges include sophomores Joshua Langford and Cassius Winston, both guards, and forward Nick Ward. Freshman Jaren Jackson Jr. also makes a major contribution inside the paint. Besides them, there are many more key parts to the Spartans as well, including upperclassmen.
Michigan State is extremely deep and talented, and the Illini will have to play their best game of the season in order to have a chance to notch a quality victory on Monday night at the State Farm Center in Champaign.
On the offensive side of the ball, Illinois must limit turnovers, control the pace of play, and take high-quality shots. In order for them to do that, guards Trent Frazier, Mark Smith, and Mark Alstork must start the game off well to give them a boost of confidence early on and get the crowd rallied behind them.
If the guards are able to drive in the lane and find big men Michael Finke and Leron Black open underneath the basket, then they are doing their job. However, an excellent performance would mean that besides beating their defender one on one and getting into the lane, the guards use the screens from their big men to either shoot a jump shot or kick the ball to the big men for a mid-range look.
When playing defense, if I were Illinois I would deny Bridges and Ward the ball as much as possible and make the other players on the team beat me. Defensive rebounding is another must for the Illini. If they give the Spartans multiple opportunities to score when they have the ball, more often than not Michigan State will cash in.
In what will be a great atmosphere at the State Farm Center on Monday night, two teams in different directions will battle it out. Michigan State will look to build off of their dominating win over the Hoosiers, while Illinois looks to capture its first Big Ten win of the season and play better down the stretch with Selection Sunday looming.