Michigan State snuck into the Top 10 this week, and now the Spartans will be trying to sneak into the top spot in the Big Ten.
At 17-4 overall, MSU could push their conference record to 7-2 Tuesday at Illinois. With two home games following Illinois, a win could go a long way toward keeping the Spartans in the thick of the conference race heading into the home stretch.
Since dropping back-to-back games to Northwestern and Michigan on Jan. 14 and 17, MSU has won two straight and is breathing down Ohio State’s neck atop the conference standings. As of Tuesday, Wisconsin and Michigan were each 6-3, a game back of MSU, while the Buckeyes led the pack at 7-2. The Spartans and Buckeyes still have to play each other twice, including the season finale in East Lansing on March 4.
Draymond Green, MSU's leading scorer, rebounded from a few quiet games in the Spartans’ last contest against Minnesota. Having scored just 15 points combined over the previous two outings, Green had 22 against the Gophers on nine-of-11 shooting. He also tore down 14 rebounds for the third time in six games.
The Illini, meanwhile, have dropped three straight and fallen to 15-6. They have some work to do to avoid 10 losses. After Michigan State, Illinois still has road games at Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin. Those four teams are a combined 17-3 in conference home games, so MSU is a biggie for the Illini.