Illinois Basketball: 5 big questions for the Illini against Michigan State

Jan 5, 2024; West Lafayette, Indiana, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Ty Rodgers (20) defends
Jan 5, 2024; West Lafayette, Indiana, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Ty Rodgers (20) defends / Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports
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Illinois basketball comes back home on Thursday night to take on an always-tough Michigan State squad.

The Illini are coming off a roller coaster of a loss against Purdue. We dug ourselves into a huge hole early on only to emerge late in the game in an attempt to pull off the upset.

While Illinois couldn't secure the victory on the road, there were a lot of positives to take from that game. The Illini will now take the momentum from the Purdue second half into the game against the Spartans.

Michigan State has a lot of talent on the roster, so there are some big questions I have for this game.

Here are five big questions for the Illinois basketball team against Michigan State

1. Can Illinois fix the big rebounding margin?

Illinois has been one of the best rebounding teams in the country this season. Despite not having a traditional center, the Illini continue to pull down boards with the best of the best.

Coming into last Friday, Illinois averaged 44.1 rebounds per game, which ranked No. 4 in the nation. That incredible number didn’t hold true against Purdue, though. The Boilermakers trucked Illinois in the rebounding department. They outrebounded us 43-28, which is a -15 rebounding margin.

What went wrong against Purdue? Well, they have a 7-foot-4 giant, but beyond that, Illinois’ guards didn’t rebound well. We have a ton of 6-foot-6 or taller players, and they just weren’t able to pull in the rebounds.

So, can Illinois fix the big rebounding woes we had against Purdue? Will the Illini rebound better against Michigan State on Thursday?

Thankfully, the Spartans don’t have a player like Zach Edey, and they are just a solid rebounding unit. Michigan State averages 37.3 rebounds per game, which ranks No. 112 in the country.

The Spartans haven’t lost a rebounding battle in the last six games. I think Illinois matches up well with Michigan State, though. All Illini players except for Justin Harmon measure 6-foot-6 or taller. This should cause problems for the Spartans.

Illinois is one of the best teams in the country when it comes to rebounding the basketball. I think there is an opportunity on Thursday night to dominate the glass once again.