Thursday, 17 January 2013

Michigan v Minnesota Preview

Following on from two victories for the underdog in College Basketball - namely Wisconsin Badgers defeating the pre-season #1 ranked Indiana Hoosiers in their home court, and then last night the Maryland Terrapins defeating the North Carolina State Wolfpack.

Whilst both are considered upsets, both have back stories and followed trends.  The Badgers have now won 11 straight versus the Hoosiers, and Indiana Head Coach, Tom Crean has never beaten Bo Ryan's squad during his four years in the job.  And NC State continued their trend of losing the game after they beat either Duke or North Carolina; they easily defeated Duke at home (the Blue Devils themselves had excuses as they were without big forward Ryan Kelly).  The Wolfpack are 1-7 now in the game immediately after they now defeat one of their big ACC rivals.

So whilst on paper the results may be a surprise, they should not necessarily qualify for an upset.

Tonight, we have another one of those maybe games when #5 Michigan travel to #9 Minnesota for another huge Big 10 clash.  The Big Ten has got a huge game every night now, seemingly the strength of the conference is more stronger in Basketball terms than Football at the moment.

Michigan are 16-1 having suffered their first loss of the season at Ohio State on Sunday 56-53, where they shot a season-worst 38.3% from the floor and had 13 turnovers.  Minnesota are 15-2, themselves also coming off a loss to Indiana 88-81, in what many considered the best performance by the Hoosiers all season.  However, Indiana followed that up with a loss at home to Wisconsin as noted above.  Therefore, both sides are in need of getting back into the winning habit.

Where will this game be won? Well expect a lot of physicality from the Golden Gophers, Tubby Smith's side led by Trevor Mbakwe who has 8 rebounds a game, and led by Andre Hollins and Rodney Williams who both hit double digits regularly.  Much like Ohio State did also, was attempt to stifle Trey Burke who shot poorly and struggled to dish out dimes to his team-mate Tim Hardaway Jr.

Also, due to the physicality of the Golden Gophers, the Wolverines have to make sure they do not foul too often as Minnesota average over 20 trips to the foul-line.  If Minnesota can force Burke to look for a pass instead of a shot, they may have half the job done.  When a National Player of the Year is not doing his job of leading from the front then the team ethic of the Gophers may have a chance to shine.

Expect a close contest with winner lucky to hit over 70 points, but if the Gophers win, will it be considered and upset?  Or just another indicator that the Big 10 is the best conference in College Basketball this season?

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