So, according to Digger Phelps, two-thirds of MSU's strategy should be to get Illinois in foul trouble? That's not a strategy, that's a prayer. It's made more unlikely by one little fact that the prized ESPN analyst overlooked. As Marlen Garcia of the Chicago Tribune points out here, Roger Powell will be matched up against Davis, not Augustine. That pesky little fact is lost on the associated press as well in their preview.
Lindsey Willhite of the Daily Herald has the Powell/Davis matchup right in his preview along with what the Illini did to prepare for the big game. Willhite also details recent praise from Michigan State coach Tom Izzo had for Deron Williams here.
Other previews can be found in the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Pantagraph, the Peoria Journal-Star, the Daily Illini and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Official Illinois game notes are here. Big Ten Wonk has an excellent preview and an interview with Dave Dye, who covers the Spartans for the Detroit News on his blog. The best answer from Dye, who says Illinois will be in the Final Four, is his best five Big Ten players not in an MSU uniform. After taking Mike Wilkinson, he rounds out his lineup with Dee Brown, Deron Williams, Luther Head, and Roger Powell. his prediction for tonight's game:
I don't think Michigan State would win at Illinois--and I think Illinois can win at Michigan State. But it's hard to imagine the Illini going undefeated. Tonight seems like the logical stumbling block. Still, for MSU to win, I think Ager has to have a huge game and perhaps Chris Hill will need to break out of his shooting slump.
The game has huge implications for the Big Ten race. With Illinois at 7-0 in the conference and Michigan State a close second with a 5-1 record, Illinois can all but put the race out of reach with a win tonight. Since this is their only meeting of the season, a loss puts Michigan State in the driver's seat, since the Illini will have to depend on another team to beat the Spartans in order to win the conference title.
Just like last week, Dick Vitale will be courtside. It's gonna be awesome, baby!
UPDATE: Add John "Brumby" Brumbaugh to the list of pundits predicting a Michigan State win. Also, Seth Davis thinks a loss would be good for the Illini. Andy Katz says here, it's a shame that the two teams only play once this year. The Sports Advisors at FoxSports.com pick the Illini. Mick DeCourcy says the game is a Big opportunity for MSU. Brett Dawson also thinks there’s a good chance Illinois is going to lose to Michigan State on Tuesday. According to Rahula Strohl on the Chicago Tribune Sports Blog, Jay Mariotti predicted an Illini loss to the Spartans on Around the Horn.