Michigan State basketball has to sweep Penn State, Michigan this week

Michigan State's A.J. Hoggard celebrates after making a basket and drawing an Illinois foul during
Michigan State's A.J. Hoggard celebrates after making a basket and drawing an Illinois foul during / Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA

Folks, we are entering a huge week for Michigan State basketball.

Coming off arguably the biggest win of the season, an 88-80 come-from-behind victory over No. 10 Illinois, the Spartans will be hitting the road for two big games against beatable opponents.

OK, beatable may be putting it nicely for at least one of them, but losing at Michigan and at Penn State would be a disaster for this team. The Spartans already beat Penn State by 31 earlier in Big Ten play and Michigan by 19. Losing to either one would hurt this week but both would be tragic. It would mean the Spartans are back on the bubble with two home games immediately after.

Penn State is up first and the Nittany Lions have been playing much better since losing to the Spartans by 31 in January. While they're only 12-12 overall, they're 6-7 in Big Ten play with victories over Michigan, Wisconsin, Rutgers, Indiana, and Iowa since losing to MSU.

Michigan, on the other hand, is coming off a shellacking at Nebraska and the Wolverines are the worst team in the Big Ten this season and tickets are going for as much as a couple of burritos from Taco Bell. This could feel like a neutral site if Spartan fans eat the tickets up, but Michigan does have a recent home win over Wisconsin (the Badgers have lost four straight, however).

Win both of these games against teams in the bottom half of the Big Ten and the Spartans head into a favorable two-game home stretch sitting at 17-9 and essentially locked into a tourney berth.

If the Spartans win these next two games, there's a good chance they win the following two and sit at 19-9 before heading to Purdue on March 2. That could be a ranked matchup if MSU takes care of business.

This two-game road stretch is incredibly important and two wins will show this team is serious. One win will show that there's work to do. Two losses will mean it's time to panic.