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The Northwestern Wildcats travel to take on the No. 9 Michigan State Spartans tonight in Big 10 college basketball action. The game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. start time and it will be televised live on the Big Ten Network. Currently the odds for the game have Michigan State as big favorites in this game.

Michigan State has been battling injuries all season. The Spartans currently sit inside the Top 10 and are half a game behind Michigan in the Big Ten standings, but they can tie them again at the top tonight. Both the Wolverines and Spartans have been playing the best basketball of anybody in the conference and tonight Michigan State welcomes in Northwestern.

The Wildcats have struggled in Big Ten play this season, going 5-6 to this point in the league. Northwestern is actually allowing more points this season to opponents than they score themselves. That's certainly not a recipe for success, but the Wildcats believe they are building a program. But Northwestern has gone 4-4 on the road this season, winning their last three away from home over Indiana, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The Big Ten just seems to be that tough this season.

The Spartans are expected to be without Keith Appling again in this game tonight. Adreian Payne recently returned from missing seven games with a foot injury and he's been Michigan State's best player. The Spartans haven't played since losing at Wisconsin on Sunday afternoon. Appling could be out up to two weeks, but Travis Trice has filled in and done pretty much what people thought was best. He's averaged nine points, 4.5 assists and four rebounds without a turnover in consecutive starts. He's not Appling, but Trice has filled in nicely for Tom Izzo and his squad.

Gary Harris connected on just three of his 20 shots in the team's loss to Wisconsin and the Spartans nearly won anyway. Don't expect him to have another bad night tonight. Harris is the type of player that even when he's struggling, he still wants the ball and he believes his next shot is going in. Northwestern's guard backcourt of Tre Demps and Drew Crawford will have a tough time keeping Harris grounded in this game.

The Spartans won the opener 54-40 at Northwestern. If the Wildcats can't score more than 40 points in a home game against Michigan State, it's certainly going to be hard for them to win tonight's game. Northwestern is averaging a Big Ten-low 53.8 points per game in conference play. Michigan State has won 18 of the last 20 meetings dating to February 2003. We expect more of the same tonight.

Free Pick: Michigan State 64, Northwestern 49

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