Illinois Fighting Illini at Michigan State Spartans

Illinois Fighting Illini Preview

Kofi Cockburn is carrying the Illinois Fighting Illini on his broad shoulders, as he’s been selected the Big Ten Freshman of the Week five times and is posting averages of 16 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks a game. He’s a full load at 7 feet, 290 pounds, complemented up front by 6-9 sophomore Giorgi Bezhanishvili, who helps Illinois lead the nation in rebounding margin (plus-12.5).

With Cockburn’s emergence, the Illini are more dangerous than expected — they own a win over Michigan and narrow losses to Miami and Maryland — but they will be looking to snap a 15-game skid against Top 25 teams in true road games when they visit Michigan State on Thursday.

Michigan State Spartans Preview

The Michigan State Spartans have won five in a row, and they have one of the nation’s top guards in senior Cassius Winston (17.6 points, 6.1 assists per game), but coach Tom Izzo is imploring for more from underclass big men Marcus Bingham Jr., Thomas Kithier, Malik Hall and Julius Marble.

There’s no issue with junior forward Xavier Tillman (13.1 points, 9.9 rebounds) or the nation’s fourth-best rebounding margin (plus-11.4), but Izzo wants to be a stickler for effort going against a talented Illinois frontcourt. Bingham, a sophomore, has started the past eight games and is averaging 5.5 points and 4.2 boards per game.