#5 ranked Michigan Basketball (16-1, 3-1) suffered their first loss of the season on Sunday at Ohio State. Things don’t get any easier for the Wolverines on Thursday as they will play at #9 Minnesota in The Barn, which is a very hostile environment. Tip off is scheduled for 7:03 pm and the game will be televised on ESPN. The broadcast crew will be Dan Shulman, Dick Vitale and Andy Katz.
Minnesota is very good. They are 15-2, 3-1 and their two losses have come against Duke and Indiana. They are fierce on the defensive end, as they lead the Big Ten and rank 13th nationally in steals per game (9.6). They also lead the Big Ten and rank 6th nationally in blocks per game (6.4).
The Gophers are led by sophomore point guard Andre Hollins who is averaging 14.4 points and 3.6 assists per game. Hollins ranks 2nd in the Big Ten in steals per game (2.0). Minnesota also has the Big Ten’s leading rebounder in Trevor Mbakwe. Like Michigan did at Ohio State on Sunday, the Gophers fell way behind at Indiana on Saturday and battled all the way back before losing 88-81.
The Barn promises to be rocking on Thursday night in what will be the first battle of Top 10 teams there since 1977, when ironically #5 Michigan visited #10 Minnesota.
Michigan got ambushed out of the gates at Ohio State, falling behind by 21 points in the first half. They battled back and if it weren’t for some bad mojo in those Value City Arena rims, they just might have won. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, Michigan can’t fall behind like that again and expect to win. They should expect a revved up Gophers team and be prepared to take a big punch out of the gates. If they can withstand that and hit some shots early, they’ll be in this game down to the wire.
Michigan has enjoyed much success against the Gophers lately. They have won 3 straight games at Williams Arena, also known as The Barn, and have won 7 of the last 8 vs Tubby Smith’s team. That of course doesn’t mean much as it relates to Thursday night’s showdown, but’s it’s interesting nonetheless.
The Wolverines were uncharacteristically sloppy in the opening stanza at OSU with 9 turnovers that led to 16 Buckeye points. I don’t think we will see a repeat of that against Minnesota. This game should be a dogfight that goes down to the final few possessions. Both teams desperately want to avoid a second Big Ten loss and the Gophers will want to defend their home court. It might boil down to the point guard match up and who plays better. Don’t sleep on Dre Hollins, he is good and will be a handful for the Wolverines. I also have a hunch that Trey Burke will play much better than he did on Sunday when he was 4-13 from the field with 4 turnovers. Maybe the point guard battle will be a push. If that’s the case keep an eye on Minnesota’s Rodney Williams, who always seems to play well against Michigan, and the Wolverines Tim Hardaway Jr. If one of those guys goes off it could be the difference. Hardaway Jr. was effective in the second half on Sunday because he attacked the rim. History has shown that Hardaway Jr. is at his best when he starts his offensive game inside and works his way out.
Another factor to consider for Michigan is that I highly doubt Nik Stauskas fails to score again, he was shut out at Ohio State. Any contribution from him, especially anything from beyond the arc, will be significant for the Wolverines.
Minnesota and Michigan have both been strong on the glass this year and rank 2nd and 3rd respectively in the Big Ten in rebounding margin. The Wolverines have 4 players averaging over 5 rebounds per game; Mitch McGary (5.9), Glenn Robinson III (5.8), Jordan Morgan (5.5) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (5.4).
Predictions: So far this season, Joe and I are both 16-1 predicting the outcome of Michigan Basketball games. In our pre-season projections we both had Michigan losing their first game at Ohio State, however we changed our tune and both picked the Wolverines to win on Sunday. Joe had mentioned that he was going to stick to his pre-season projections from here on out and that means he has Minnesota winning this one. I’m really torn with this match up. If Michigan is the team I think they are, they will win, and for that reason I’m going with the Wolverines. This might be the game where Trey Burke’s game winning shot attempt rolls in instead of out like it did at Ohio State and at Arkansas last year. Let us know what your prediction is by leaving it in the comments below.
Joe: Minnesota 69-66
Rob: Michigan 70-68
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After this game, Michigan will have a week off before they host Purdue on Thursday January 24th.
Michigan leads the nation in fewest fouls per game (11.6).
Michigan ranks 4th nationally in fewest turnovers per game (9.5).