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Michigan State basketball: Significance of win over No. 10 Illinois

This was massive.

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Michigan State basketball
© Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

Michigan State basketball won a huge game on Saturday afternoon against No. 10 Illinois and it was important for a couple of reasons.

The Spartans just got one of their best wins of the season at home against No. 10 Illinois. Michigan State basketball was coming off a tough loss against Minnesota, but responded in a big way in front of a wild Breslin Center crowd.

This 88-80 win has so much significance to it that it’s hard to pick out a couple of things, but here are the two reasons why this win was super important for the season.

NCAA tournament resume

Heading into their matchup with Illinois, the Spartans were firmly on the NCAA tournament bubble. This was mainly because their resume lacked many strong wins. With only two Quad 1 wins on their resume, this was MSU’s best chance to add another.

The only other Quad 1 game on the schedule is Purdue and I don’t think we can count on winning that game on the road, so this was the Spartans’ best chance at getting that marquee win. And they did just that.

The Spartans now are firmly off the NCAA tournament bubble and would be in if the season ended today. Obviously the season doesn’t end today, so there is still work to do. But Michigan State needed a big win and they got it in front of the home crowd.

Confidence going forward

In my opinion, Illinois is the second-best team in the Big Ten. Wisconsin had a case to be made but now the Badgers have lost four straight, so the Illini check in at No. 2 in my Big Ten power rankings behind Purdue. So the Spartans winning this game shows that they can hang with and beat everyone left on their schedule.

I know I already touched on Purdue and how that game will be difficult to win, but in the six other games, MSU has a great chance to win. So a win against Illinois should give MSU the confidence going into these games knowing that if they can beat Illinois then they can beat these other teams. And who knows, if the Spartans keep rattling off wins maybe they can shock the world and beat Purdue, too.

But the way that Michigan State basketball won this game adds even more confidence. MSU has struggled to close games this year. Many of the Spartans’ losses could’ve easily been wins if they made just one or two more plays. On Saturday, however, they made those plays late and won the game. Michigan State was down eight with about 7:30 to play and still found a way to not just storm back but win the game by eight. These are games MSU has lost all season, but now they can have confidence going forward late in games knowing they have what it takes to come away with a win.

The Spartans’ next game is on the road against Penn State on Wednesday. Hopefully this newfound confidence will help them get their second road win of the season.

Lead writer for Spartan Shadows since April 2023, writing over 450 articles. Michigan State basketball, football and recruiting expert. Class of 2019 graduate from Michigan State University specializing in Sports Management. Daily MSU runs a popular X page (@daily_msu) covering all things MSU Sports.

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