The meat grinder that is the Big Ten schedule can chew at even some of the most capable teams in the conference, but on-the-bubble Michigan State -- which has had a brutal draw of road games in recent weeks -- will get a chance to punch back and improve its odds of punching a ticket to the Big Dance on Saturday with No. 10 Illinois coming to East Lansing, Michigan.

The 14-9 Spartans are .500 in Big Ten play (6-6) but 2-7 overall in Quadrant 1 opportunities, which a home tilt vs. Illini will present. One of those seven losses came weeks ago in Champaign in a 71-68 loss to Illinois that proved Michigan State has the mettle to go the distance with anyone, but a close loss this weekend won't cut it given the limited chances to have the home crowd behind you with these stakes.

Illinois since its win over Michigan State last month has gone 5-2, but it has hardly been a convincing run, even as it has kept within striking distance of league-leading Purdue. The Illini have a pedestrian +6.7 scoring margin in their last seven games that is being anchored by lopsided wins over Michigan and Rutgers. A win Saturday would mean a great deal for them, too, as they look to steady the ship down the homestretch.

How to watch Michigan State vs. Illinois live

Date: Saturday, Feb. 9 | Time: 2 p.m. ET
Location: Breslin Center -- East Lansing, Michigan
TV: CBS | Live stream: CBSSports.comCBS Sports App (Free) 

Michigan State vs. Illinois: Need to know

Sparty salty at home: No Big Ten team outside of Purdue has been more effective and more efficient on their home floor than have the Spartans in East Lansing. In games played at the Breslin Center they have a +17.9 scoring margin that ranks second among Big Ten teams and 27th in the country. Outside of two surprising early season slip-ups to James Madison and Wisconsin, they've been nearly perfect in front of their home crowd.

Illinois has MSU's number of late: Including the 71-68 win over Michigan State at home last month, Illinois carries a four-game winning streak over Sparty into Saturday. MSU's last win in the series came in 2021 when it won at home 81-72 over the visiting Illinois. 

Domask continues to emerge: Even with Terrence Shannon Jr. returning from suspension last month, Marcus Domask has continued to ascend to the top of the Illini pecking order. The senior guard ranks as the fourth-leading scorer among Big Ten players in league competition at 20.1 points per game and he's now scored double figits in 15 of his last 16 outings. After averaging just 8.2 points over his first six games he currently ranks 11th in the Big Ten in scoring at 15.7 points per game.

Michigan State vs. Illinois prediction, picks

If there's one thing we can expect Saturday it's a close game: of the last 30 games in this series, 26 have been decided by 10 or fewer points. That leads me to think this one -- with MSU favored by 2.5 at home -- is basically a coinflip. In that case I'll take the team that has looked better this season and has already shown it can win in a head-to-head. Pick: Illinois +2.5

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