Michigan State Spartans at Illinois Fighting Illini NCAAM Pick – February 11, 2020

Yesterday I mentioned in my pick that I would back the Florida State Seminoles getting eight and a half points against any team in the country, no matter where the game was being played. And after seeing how they battled with the Duke Blue Devils last night at Cameron Indoor Stadium, I am ready to double down on that assertion.

While the Noles didn’t finish the job and win the game outright, they pushed Duke to the absolute limit, and the cover was never in doubt. It was the definition of free money. The final score of 70-65 might make you think we sweated this one out, we didn’t. This was a one-point game with under three minutes to play, and if it weren’t for an atrociously bad foul call late in the game, the Seminoles just might have pulled off the upset.

For Duke, it has been a whirlwind 48-hours as they pulled off a miraculous comeback against North Carolina on Saturday night in Chapel Hill, and then followed it up with a huge win over Florida State last night. The Blue Devils didn’t see their names up on the top line when the selection committee revealed their top-four seeds this weekend, but after what Duke just did, you can bet they have moved up.

For Florida State, the loss likely means they won’t have a realistic shot at winning the ACC regular-season title as they are now two games back of Louisville for first place with just a handful of games left on the schedule. But to be honest, the Noles don’t need to win the ACC to get a top-four seed in the NCAA tournament, and if you don’t think this team can win a national title, you are crazy. For today’s daily betting pick, we will take a look at two more teams that have national title aspirations, as the Michigan State Spartans play the Fighting Illini of Illinois.

Today’s Game

  • Michigan State Spartans (16-8) at Illinois Fighting Illini (16-7)
  • 6:00 PM PST
  • Assembly Hall, Champaign
  • TV: ESPN

Two teams that are both all of the sudden struggling, will match up tonight in Big 10 action, as the Fighting Illini of Illinois host the Michigan State Spartans. After reeling off seven straight wins in league play and taking over sole possession of first place in the Big 10 standings, the Illini have now lost two straight games. And while neither of those losses were bad ones, they came to Iowa and Maryland, both of which are ranked in the top-20 on kenpom, they did drop out of first place, as they are now a game back of the Terrapins in the race for the Big 10 regular-season title.

For Michigan State, the Spartans have really struggled as of late as they have lost five out of their last eight games, including three straight. Similar to Illinois, none of those losses were bad ones, as they all came to top-50 teams, but that is life in the Big 10, all the teams are good, and you need to find a way to win against quality competition to survive. The Spartans fell out of the national rankings for the first time this season after starting out the year as the preseason consensus number one team in the country.


  • Michigan State -2 (-110)
  • Illinois +2 (-110)
Money line:

  • Michigan State -130
  • Illinois +110
Total Points:

  • Over 141.5 (-110)
  • Under 141.5 (-110)

Michigan State Spartans

At some point, we are all going to have to look at this Michigan State team objectively and say that maybe we all just got it wrong about them this year. I know they have all the talent in the world and one of the best coaches of all time on the sideline, but the fact of the matter is that this team just isn’t as good as we all thought they would be this year.

That’s not to say that they are bad, they aren’t. But they certainly aren’t the best team in the country, like many people thought they were going into the season, and when I hear them still being consistently mentioned as a Final Four caliber team, I cringe. Could they get their acts together and make a run to the Final Four? Sure, they could. Izzo has taken teams with far less talent on them, deep into the tournament in the past.

But to mention them as favorites to do so right now is absurd. Here are the facts. The Spartans have lost five out of their last eight games. Those five losses came to Michigan, Indiana, Penn State, Wisconsin, and Purdue. Purdue is in 7th place in the Big 10, Wisconsin is in 8th, Michigan is in 11th, and Indiana is in 12th. Their three wins? They came against Northwestern, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, all teams that are in the bottom half of the Big 10 standings. The combined league record of those three teams? 14-24.

Illinois Fighting Illini

The Illini looked like they were going to run away with the Big 10 regular-season title before this recent two-game skid. They had an 8-2 record in league play, with the only losses coming on the road at Michigan State and on the road at Maryland. But even with this two-game losing streak, this team is still poised to chase the Terrapins for first place.

The fact that Maryland owns a season sweep over them is going to make it tough to pass them as they lost the tiebreaker, but when you look at who Maryland still has to play, the Terrapins have a couple of potential losses on the schedule.

The Terps still play at Michigan State, at Ohio State, at Minnesota, and at Rutgers, and all of those are going to be tough games to win. Don’t count out these Illini just yet, I think they still have a real opportunity to win the Big 10, but that starts with beating the Spartans tonight at home.

Who Do I Like?

I have been backing home teams in the Big 10 all season long. It seems like at least once or twice a week; I can find a home team in the Big 10 that is either a home dog or laying two points or less, that I can back and basically pick up free money. Home teams have won 75% of the time in league play this year in the Big 10, and when you pull out Northwestern and Nebraska’s struggles out of that mix, the bottom two teams in the league, that number shoots up to over 83% home floor outright winners.

Just in the last week alone, I was able to back Wisconsin, Michigan, Purdue, and Minnesota as either home underdogs or small favorites and cashed a winning ticket each time.

And to make these bets even more profitable, in nearly all of those games, the public backed the road team and gave me a better number than I deserved. That is the case in this one as well, as the Spartans opened up as -1-point road favorites and the public has backed them, pushing the number to where it stands now at -2.

The Bet

I get to do my two favorite things in college basketball betting this year in this game. I get to back a home underdog in the Big 10, and I get to fade the public while doing it. Maybe the public hasn’t noticed that the Spartans have lost four out of their last five road games in the Big 10? To teams like Purdue, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan. None of those teams are as good as this Illinois team is right now.

So, I will let the public open up the value for me once again, and back the Illini at home tonight, getting +2-points. When these two teams matched up earlier this year in East Lansing, the Illini shot just 3-28 from three-point land. That’s just not going to happen on their home floor tonight. Give me the Fighting Illini of Illinois tonight as they hand the Spartans a fourth consecutive loss!

The Bet: Illinois Fighting Illini +2

My Pick
Jason Gray / Author

Jason is a true Las Vegas insider as he has called the sports betting capital of the world his home for sixteen years. Jason started out his career in gaming by running the biggest poker tournaments in the world and managing some of the biggest sportsbooks on the strip. Jason has transitioned out of casino operations and has been covering sports betting for the sports geek for just over two years. His main focus is on baseball, college basketball, and the NFL