EAST LANSING â€” Prior to the Big Ten season, many Big Ten and college basketball advocates had this game circled on their calendar.
The Fighting Illini (15-6, 2-5) entered Big Ten play with one loss â€” to then-No. 12 Mizzou, and looked like a serious contender for not only a Big Ten Championship, but a National Championship as well.
The Spartans (17-4, 6-2 Big Ten) found themselves in a very similar situation to that of Illinois. Michigan State entered Big Ten play with only two losses â€” opening game against then-No. 23 Connecticut and Miami (FL) on the road, and they too seemed like they also had the potential to make a serious statement this season.
However, both teams received rude awakenings when Big Ten play finally rolled around, as Illinois lost their first game to Purdue and Michigan State fell to Minnesota.
MSUâ€™s Adreian Payne (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
While these two teams seemed identical record wise at that point in the season, the difference came once Big Ten play really...