Xavier Musketeers (25-8 SU, 20-11 ATS) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers (21-13 SU, 17-16 ATS), 12:25 p.m. EST, Friday, March 19, 2010, Bradley Center, Milwaukee, Wisc. TV: CBS
by Ryno of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Xavier +1/Minnesota -1
There are many different paths that teams take to reach the NCAA tournament. Some teams dominate all season long and cruise to an at-large bid. Some teams wait until their conference tournament and then win it to receive an at-large bid. Others have different paths.
The Xavier Musketeers have played a very difficult non-conference schedule but it’s best win came over Cincinnati at home in double overtime. Other than that, the Musketeers’ best non-conference wins came over LSU and Kent State, not quite wins to brag over. But in conference play, the Musketeers took care of business with a 14-2 record in the Atlantic 10, their only two losses coming at Dayton and at Temple. Because of Xavier’s superior record in conference play and tough non-conference schedule, the Musketeers had a solid computer resume which game them a No. 6 seed after losing to Richmond in overtime in the Atlantic 10 tournament. Prior to that loss, they had won eight games in a row and 12 of their last 13.
The Minnesota Golden Gophers took a very different path. The No. 11 seed Golden Gophers played a very weak non-conference schedule loaded with home games, other than an appearance in the 76 Classic and a game at Miami (FL) in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Gophers lost three of those four decent non-conference games, with the lone win coming over Butler. In conference play, the Gophers struggled and started off with a 5-7 record. But they got back into the at-large discussion with a home win over Wisconsin, followed by a win over Indiana to get to 7-7 in the Big Ten. After losing by just one point to Purdue in a game that went down to the final buzzer, the Gophers rebounded with a two-point victory at Illinois. After an embarrassing blowout loss at Michigan, they finished with a blowout win over Iowa. But with that terrible loss to Michigan, the Gophers had to be impressive in the conference tournament. And that they were, defeating Michigan State and Purdue on consecutive days to advance to the conference final, where they lost by 29 to Ohio State. But it was enough to get them an at-large bid, and here they are facing Xavier in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Minnesota is the more experienced of these teams with an average of 2.17 years of experience per minute, while Xavier checks in at 1.86 years of experience per minute. Xavier has nine road/neutral wins, while Minnesota has seven.
Minnesota commits slightly less turnovers per game than Xavier, both around 13, and Minnesota also forces more than one more turnover per game with 14.4 per contest. Minnesota is barely out-rebounding its opponents, while Xavier is averaging more than four more rebounds per game than its opponents this season. Minnesota is shooting 40 percent from 3-point range and holding opponents to 34 percent, while Xavier is making 37 percent of its 3-point attempts and holding opponents to 29 percent. Minnesota has the slight edge in field goal percentage offense and field goal percentage defense, but both teams are shooting around 47 percent from the field and holding their opponents to about 41 percent shooting.
Both teams have some size down low, as Xavier has Jason Love and Minnesota has Ralph Sampson III and Colton Iverson. But the game will be won or lost by the perimeter players. Xavier is led by guards Jordan Crawford and Terrell Holloway, while Minnesota is led by Lawrence Westbrook and Blake Hoffarber.
Minnesota is 5-0 ATS in its last five non-conference games and 8-2 ATS in its last 10 games overall. The Gophers are 2-7 ATS in their last nine games following an ATS loss. Xavier is 8-1 ATS in its last nine NCAA tournament games as an underdog and 12-3-1 ATS in their last 16 NCAA tournament games overall. The Musketeers are 14-4 ATS in their last 18 neutral site games as an underdog and 15-5-2 ATS in their last 22 games following an ATS loss.
Ryno’s Pick: I like the Golden Gophers to win and cover.