The best thing Michigan State can do in the final week of the regular season is simply worry about itself.
The Big Ten title race? Purdue’s win Tuesday eliminated the Spartans (18-11, 10-6 Big Ten) from contention, so they no longer have to worry about that. Two straight games against teams celebrating Senior Night? If Michigan State gets overwhelmed by the emotion of the road crowds, there could be trouble.
Tom Izzo’s team must play within itself. The Spartans are 1-5 away from home since Jan. 1 largely because of an inability to do so consistently. And Illinois (17-12, 7-9), which has won four of its last five games in a last-gasp NCAA Tournament push, won’t make things easy on Wednesday.
With the prospect of inching closer to a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament, it would be difficult to surpass what’s on the line for Michigan State. But the Illini have the motivation of fighting for a postseason berth while seeking to send its six seniors out with a flourish in their final home game.
The battle Wednesday will undoubtedly be an intense one at the sold-out State Farm Center.
Now, wear ORANGE? & be LOUD ?! https://t.co/8l55v2DhYl
— Illini Basketball (@IlliniMBB) March 1, 2017
Michigan State basketball vs. Illinois game time, details
Time: 8 p.m. CT/9 p.m. ET
Date: Wednesday, March 1
Location: State Farm Center, Champaign, Ill.
Which TV channel broadcasts Michigan State basketball vs. Illinois?
The game will be broadcast on Big Ten Network.
How can I watch Michigan State basketball vs. Illinois online?
How can I listen to Michigan State basketball vs. Illinois on the radio?
For Michigan State, the game can be heard on radio over the 38-affiliate Spartan Sports Network, including flagship stations WMMQ-FM (94.9)/WJIM-AM (1240) in Lansing and WJR-AM (760) in Detroit. It is also on Sirius 135/XM 195.
Who is calling the Michigan State basketball vs. Illinois game?
Dave Revsine will handle play-by-play for BTN with Jon Crispin providing analysis. Will Tieman handles play-by-play with analyst Matt Steigenga on the Spartan Sports Network.
Michigan State basketball vs. Illinois 3 keys
Feed the post
Freshman big man Nick Ward was an absolute monster last week, winning both Big Ten Player of the Week and Freshman of the Week honors. Who would’ve thought he’d be the first player in the conference to pull that off? In two games, he scored 42 points on 17-for-25 shooting, grabbed 18 rebounds, and even shored up a weak spot by hitting 8 of 10 from the free throw line.
Against Illinois, he’ll have a great opportunity to continue his hot streak. Illinois ranks last in the Big Ten in blocked shots and Illini big man Maverick Morgan has never been known for his defensive prowess. Should the Spartans space the floor and give Ward room to work, he’ll have his way in the post.
Contain Malcolm Hill
Who will defend Illinois’ senior star? Freshman wing Miles Bridges will likely have his hands full with Leron Black, and Josh Langford looked inconsistent at best defensively against Wisconsin on Sunday. After Matt McQuaid’s standout performance vs. the Badgers, combined with the solid defense he has played all season, the task might be in his hands.
Everything runs through Hill for the Illini. Oftentimes that hurts them, but they really have no choice. He can create like few others in the conference can. McQuaid or whoever takes on the challenge of covering him must stay in front without help defense, because when Hill draws multiple defenders, he knows how to find shooters. Tracy Abrams, Jalen Coleman-Lands and Michael Finke all shoot better than 37 percent from deep.
Crash the offensive glass
It doesn’t make sense, how well Michigan State has rebounded lately. Such a small team battered by injuries had no reason to rebound 34.3 percent of its misses against Wisconsin, the second-best defensive rebounding team in the Big Ten. But it did.
Now the Spartans take on the third-best defensive rebounding team in the league. Again, it will be crucial to create second chances to avoid the same crushing runs that have sealed their fate in other road games so far this year. Whether it’s Ward chasing down his own misses or Langford and Tum Tum Nairn crashing in from the perimeter, Michigan State’s performance on the offensive glass will play a big part in the outcome of this game.