In the wake of Michigan State's embarrassing and potentially disastrous home loss to Illinois on Saturday, a seeming plurality of Spartan fans returned to one of their most trusted crutches for times of adversity.

"This is the worst the Izzone has ever been!"

"Time to move the Izzone to the nose-bleeds and bring back the alumni Izzone!"

"MSU needs to ban cell phones in the Izzone!"

These (and many, many more) were actual first reactions from MSU alumni and fans to the Spartans' defeat at the hands of the lowly Illini. No mention of an underwhelming rebounding performance by the Green and White, nothing about a poor shooting day, and the most glaring omission of all: No outrage over this team of highly touted and sought-after basketball players' complete and utter failure at the free-throw line.

A little perspective: This MSU team shoots 62.1 percent at the foul line. That's dead last in the Big Ten and 336th in the country--out of a total of 351.

That's not just bad, it's awful.

But wait, it gets worse.

In their eight losses, the Spartans have shot 56.7 percent at the line (80-141), a number that would rank far and away as the absolute worst in the NCAA if it were a season-long statistic.

Also in their eight losses, the Spartans' opponents have shot about 77 percent from the stripe. What's more, opponents outscored Michigan State by more than a 2-to-1 margin at the free-throw line (162-to-80) and out-chanced them in terms of free-throw attempts by a margin of 211-to-141.

That's not a winning formula. In fact, Michigan State is giving 10.25 points per game at the foul line in its losses. Think about that. That basically means MSU is down 10 points at tip-off.

How can that be? How can one of Tom Izzo's best perimeter shooting teams be so horrible at the free-throw line?

Denzel Valentine is shooting 83.3 percent at the line this season, which is pretty good. But we've seen him miss at inopportune times.

Travis Trice has been absolutely cold-blooded from 3-point distance at times, and yet he's shooting a paltry 67.6 percent at the foul stripe this year, including a critical miss in the waning moments of Saturday's game versus Illinois.

Bryn Forbes might be the best shooter Tom Izzo has ever had--he's near 47 percent behind the arc and over 80 percent at the line--and yet he missed a huge free throw after Illinois practically gifted the game to the Spartans with a technical foul on a foul shot attempt.

Injuries have certainly had an impact. Trice's ribs are popping in and out, and the kid is out there grinding through it. Chemistry has been an issue for this team too, but that's not an excuse at this point in the season.

The real problem here is between the ears. There's no other way to explain the transformation of guys who are sharpshooters behind the 3-point line to barely 50-percent shooters at the line. The pressure is real, and it rattles Michigan State.

The bottom line is that MSU is just not that good this year. The individual talent is there, but this team does not hold up together under pressure, particularly at the foul line.

And that has nothing to do with the Izzone.