Michigan State vs Illinois Odds, Picks and Predictions: Spartans, Illini Have High-Octane Battle

Tom Izzo and Brad Underwood have done excellent work to keep Michigan State's and Illinois' respective March Madness hopes alive, and offense has been a big reason why for both programs. Our college basketball betting picks see fireworks in Champaign.

Jan 11, 2024 • 12:26 ET • 4 min read
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Every Big Ten game appears to be a tough one this season with the conference having eight teams already with double-digit wins and just one with a losing record. One of those programs to already hit double-digit wins is No. 10 Illinois, who will have to deal with a polarizing Michigan State team.

The college basketball odds have the Illini as three-point favorites despite the Spartans surging over the last few weeks and Illinois’ top scorer Terrence Shannon Jr. suspended and facing sexual assault charges. While neither of these teams’ seasons are going exactly to plan, both teams’ offenses have flashed the ability to explode, and this matchup should make for a high scoring one at State Farm Center.

Find out where my best bets lie in our free college basketball picks and predictions for Michigan State vs. Illinois on Thursday, January 11.

Michigan State vs Illinois best odds

Michigan State vs Illinois picks and predictions

After starting the season ranked No. 4 in the country and dropping its opening game in overtime to James Madison, Tom Izzo’s Spartans had a bit of a free fall, going 4-5 in their first nine games of the season. But Mr. March snapped his team back into focus, and it’s been far more formidable as of late.

The Spartans have gone 5-1 since upsetting No. 6 Baylor in mid-December and now have a feisty Illinois program to go head-to-head with to test how truly competitive they can be as March approaches. Between Michigan State finding its rhythm on offense and the Illini holding it together without Terrence Shannon Jr., the Over 149.5 is in play. 

Even after a slow start to the season, Michigan State is scoring 78 points per game — 102nd in the country — and have put up at least 74 in each of its last six games. There’s been a new-found consistency on offense in East Lansing that’s propelled the Spartans’ scorers to 25th in adjusted offensive efficiency despite playing the 29th-toughest strength of schedule in the country.

One of the biggest reasons Michigan State has been able to piece this offense together has been the team's ability to move the ball and get it into the hands of the open man. Izzo’s squad is 11th in the country in assists per game with 18.6. 

Between the pass-happy approach and the ability to hit 3s at a consistent rate — 35.9% as a team — the Spartans are averaging 86.5 points per game over their last six. The engine that makes the offense go has been Tyson Walker.

Walker has been an unstoppable force in the Big Ten, averaging 20.6 points per game and hitting 41.3% of his 3s. The former Northeastern star’s 3-point shooting ability has been a game changer, and having fellow guards AJ Hoggard and Jaden Akins flanking him has given the Spartans a reliable trio in the backcourt.

Hoggard is the second-leading scorer with 11.3 per game and leads the team in assists with 5.1 while Akins is putting up 10.7 points and shooting 37.1% from deep. Those three can challenge a solid Illinois defense that’s allowing 66.8 points per game, but has played just the 136th-ranked strength of schedule based on its opponents offensive efficiency. 

Illinois has allowed 69 points per game against Big Ten teams and 75.1 points per game against high major programs. But Brad Underwood has been able to keep his program rolling when the defense struggles thanks to the explosive offense the Illini bring to the court. 

Illinois is 24th in the country in points per game with 83.5, and seventh in adjusted offensive efficiency. The program has scored at least 74 points in all but two games this season and is averaging 83.3 points per game in Big Ten play. The offense hasn’t been an issue in the three games without Shannon Jr., averaging 92.6 points overall and 87 points in its two Big Ten games.

The biggest difference-maker has been Marcus Domask, a mid-range shooter who’s averaging 14.1 points per game this season. The Southern Illinois transfer has taken on a large role with Shannon Jr. suspended and has averaged 23 points in his last three games.

His ability to nail mid-range shots has helped Illinois keep it together despite the Shannon Jr. situation hanging over the team and since being given the keys to the offense, Domask has averaged 29 points per game in two Big Ten games, including 26 against No. 1 Purdue.

In those last two games against the Boilermakers and Northwestern, he’s playing a lot (37.5 minutes per game) and shooting a ton (16 field goals and 10 free throws per game). That shouldn’t stop against this tough Spartans program.

Forward Quincy Guerrier has also stepped up and the Oregon transfer has juiced his points up from 11.5 per game on the season to 14 in his last three. It’s been similar with big man Coleman Hawkins. Hawkins is averaging 10.4 on the season, but 14 in his last three. 

Those three have helped Illinois shoot 56.7% from two this season, 28th in the country.

My best bet: Over 149.5 (-103 at PROLINE+)

Michigan State vs Illinois same-game parlay

PROLINE+

Over 149.5

Illinois -2.5

While the suspension of Shannon Jr. hangs over this Illinois program, Underwood has continued to get the best out of his program despite the circumstances.

The Illini are coming off a 5-point loss on the road to No. 1 Purdue and played the Boilermakers far tougher than expected. Illinois covered the 10.5-point spread and have gone 3-0 ATS in games without Shannon Jr. 

With Domask stepping up, Illinois remains one of the best teams in the Big Ten and should continue to add to its strong spread record. Illinois is 8-0-2 ATS in its last 10 games.

Learn how to bet a same-game parlay with these helpful tips and strategies.

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Michigan State vs Illinois spread and Over/Under analysis

The spread opened with Illinois as 3.5 to 4.5-point favorites at home, and most books have come down to 3. The Illini are 8-4-2 ATS this season and 3-0 in the Big Ten. Michigan State is 8-7 ATS and 1-3 in the Big Ten.

The total opened between 149.5 and 150 with most books settling in at 149.5. Illinois is 8-6 to the Over, including 6-2 in its last eight and 2-1 in the Big Ten. The Spartans are 8-7 to the Over, including 7-0 in its last seven and 3-1 in the Big Ten.

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Michigan State vs Illinois betting trend to know

Michigan State has hit the Game Total Over in 9 of their last 13 away games (+4.60 Units / 32% ROI). Find more college basketball betting trends for Michigan State vs. Illinois.

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Michigan State vs Illinois game info

Location: State Farm Center, Champaign, IL
Date: Thursday, January 11, 2024
Tip-off: 9:00 p.m. ET
TV: FS1

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