Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. Michigan State Spartans Pick
Minnesota Golden Gophers (22-13 SU, 18-17 ATS) vs. Michigan State Spartans (29-6 SU, 24-11 ATS)
When: Saturday, March 23, 2019 – 7:45 PM ET
Where: Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines, Iowa
Point Spread: MINN +10/MIST -10 (5Dimes)
Total: O/U 142
Last Time Out: Minnesota beat Louisville 86-76; Michigan State defeated Bradley 76-65.
Scouting the Golden Gophers:
That was a nice way for the Gophers to get over the hump. Minnesota hadn’t made the second round of the tournament since 2013, and given how they managed to lose to Nebraska and Rutgers in February, more than a few people questioned whether Richard Pitino’s crew really belonged in this tournament. However, they stepped up when they needed to, hitting 11 triples against Louisville and controlling the game from start to finish. The Gophers got contributions from their entire starting five — and nobody else, as all 86 points against the Cardinals were scored by one of the five Minnesota starters.
The best news for Minnesota was that they were able to build a 19-point lead on Louisville before withstanding a late run. Rest is essential in this tournament, and the Gophers were able to get through round 1 without exhausting themselves. That could be big going forward, given how dependent Minnesota is on its starters.
Scouting the Spartans:
That was far too scary. The Spartans struggled badly against Bradley, failing to put the Braves away until the final few minutes. That was in large part because they couldn’t get going from outside, connecting on just 5 of 19 attempts from deep. What saved the Spartans? Two things: rebounding and free throws. Michigan State was able to extend its possessions against Bradley and often earned foul shots, hitting 25 of 26 from the stripe to give them the edge they needed. The Spartans, however, aren’t going to win many games when they shoot 42.6 percent from the floor, and they’ve got to get more from their offense to beat Minnesota. Specifically, they need more from Kenny Goins, who shot 1-for-10 against Bradley and missed all seven of his deep shots. A repeat performance will mean another second-round exit for Michigan State.
Familiarity. This is a very rare meeting of conference rivals in the second round of the tournament, as the NCAA usually likes to keep such meetings from happening until at least the regional semifinals. However, teams that met only once during the season can meet in the round of 32, so these teams face off in what’s essentially their 21st Big Ten game of the season. Michigan State has owned the series in recent years, winning five of the past six meetings with Minnesota. However, the one game the Spartans lost was also the only one that didn’t take place in either Minneapolis or East Lansing. The teams met on a neutral floor two years ago in the Big Ten tournament in Washington, with the Gophers claiming a 63-58 victory after losing twice to Michigan State in the regular season.
Minnesota will Cover if:
The Gophers can unlock the Spartans’ defense. The Michigan State defense is a nightmare to play against, as Minnesota found out the hard way when Jordan Murphy and Amir Coffey combined for just nine points on their trip to East Lansing. The Gophers need at least one of them to shine in this game to throw Michigan State off balance enough to give them a chance.
Michigan State will Cover if:
The Spartans can rediscover their shots. Right now, Michigan State isn’t shooting the basketball well. That seemed to be explained by the fact that in their final two games of the Big Ten tournament, the Spartans ran into Wisconsin and Michigan, two of the best five defenses in the country. But Bradley, the Missouri Valley champions, has a defense ranked outside the top 100, and Michigan State still couldn’t get going. The Spartans have to find their shots and hit teammates with good looks; shooting in the low 40s won’t be enough to get this job done.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread:
I know that Michigan State is the better team, but I’d be lying if I said that the Bradley game didn’t give me some real concern about the Spartans’ offense. Michigan State is always going to defend well, but the Spartans need to have their offense flowing to avoid the massive upset that claimed it last year against Syracuse.
Minnesota played looser and freer, and that’s the way that you want to approach this tournament, especially as a lower level seed. Plus, the Gophers have won two games over Purdue in recent weeks, so they’ve shown that they can hang with some of the best in the nation.
With what Minnesota is capable of, and the fact that Michigan State doesn’t exactly look like the best version of itself, this line seems too high. If they’re going to give me 10 to take an underrated Minnesota squad, I’m going to jump on it. Take the Gophers for the cover in this one.