Texas Longhorns vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers Preview and Pick – 2009 Men’s NCAA Tournament Round 1

Texas Longhorns (22-11) -4, 126.5 O/U vs. Minnesota Gophers (21-10)
+4, 126.5 O/U, East Region Opening Round, Greensboro Coliseum,
Greensboro, N.C., Thursday, March 19, 7:10 PM EST, CBS

by Badger of Predictem.com

The tricky 7-seed-versus-10-seed matchup in the East Region of the NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament will tip off in primetime when the
Texas Longhorns of the Big 12 Conference go up against the Minnesota
Gophers of the Big 10 Conference in the Greensboro Coliseum in
Greensboro, N.C.

The Longhorns had what most hardcore fans in Texas consider a disappointing season, despite winning 22 games on the year. Texas
finished in the middle of the pack in the Big 12 this season (6th,
11-8), but what most people will remember is that the Longhorns
suffered a brutal three-game losing streak at the start of February
and that they lost two of their last three games in the regular
season (to Oklahoma State and Kansas) before falling out of the Big
12 tournament with a quarterfinal loss to Baylor, 76-70.

Minnesota on the other hand is on the upswing in head coach Tubby
Smiths second season at the helm. The Gophers won more than 20 games
for the first time in a long time, although they too are struggling
to finish the season off strong losing four of their last six in the
regular season. However, Minnesota did give Michigan State a major
challenge in the Big 10 tourney, losing 64-56, which is what the
selection committee must have been looking at when they gave the
Gophers an at large bid to the dance.

Oddsmakers opened the game with Texas as modest 4-point favorites and the number has held firm during early betting at the window. The over/ under total opened at 126, and it has only moved up a half-point to
126.5 at most sportsbooks, although there are a few offshore
sportsbooks that list the total at 127.

Its no secret that Texas will go as far as guard A.J. Abrams takes
them. The Longhorn guard is not only the teams top scorer at 16.3
points per game, but hes also the teams emotional leader as well.
Forward Damion James (15.4 ppg, 9.2 rpg) is a big body inside that
controls the paint, but he often has foul trouble that makes him
spend more time on the bench than on the floor. The one facet that
the Longhorns have that will certainly help them versus the Gophers
is their depth in the paint, as Texas can run centers Gary Johnson,
Dexter Pittman and Connor Atchley and their 15 fouls at Minnesota,
who lacks height and depth in the paint.

Texas as a team averaged 72.3 points per game, shooting 44.2 percent
from the floor during the season. On defense, they allowed just 65.5
points a night on 40.6 percent shooting.

Minnesota doesnt have a prolific scorer on their side, as guard Lawrence Westbrook leads the team with just a 12.4 points per game average. As a team, the Gophers only averaged 66.5 points per game on
44.2 percent shooting.

But what the Gophers do have is a strong and aggressive defense. They
finished the season ranked 34th in the NCAA in points allowed per
game at 61.1 per night, and 33rd in shooting percentage allowed at
39.8 percent. Tubby Smith has dedicated himself and the team to play
hard-nosed defense first, and the players have taken to that approach
with a 100 percent commitment.

These two schools havent met on the hardwood in recent times, but
they did have two common opponents on their schedules this season.
The Longhorns lost to Michigan State (67-63) then beat Wisconsin
(74-69) in back-to-back games back in December, while the Gophers
swept the season series versus the Badgers (51-46; 78-74 OT) and were
swept by the Spartans (70-58; 76-47) during the Big 10 regular season.

The Longhorns struggled at the window as well as on the court this
season, as they finished the year with a 11-18-1 ATS record. It has
been especially bad of late, as they are 2-7-1 ATS in their last 10
games, and 0-2-1 in the Big 12 tourney. Minnesota was 12-14-1 ATS
this year, including a 3-7 ATS record in their last 10 game overall.

One fact that bettors will need to keep in mind before wagering on
this game is that No. 7 seeds have had the upper hand in the matchup
with No. 10 seeds the past six tourneys. In the 7/10 game, the No. 7
seed is a strong 17-7 both SU and ATS since the 2002 bracket.

Badgers Pick: The Gophers are a great story and are certainly a
program on the rise under Smith. When the brackets were announced on
Sunday, Minnesota fans were overjoyed beyond belief that the Gophers
finally made it back to the big dance. But reality will hit hard
Thursday, as they just dont have the guns to hang with the size and
depth of Texas, especially inside. The Longhorns will pull away late
in an ugly, low-scoring game. Take Texas minus the 4-points here.