I am doing this preview now because tomorrow will be devoted to signing day and the Gophers incoming recruiting class. If you would have asked me to predict this game after MSU came in and stomped the Gophers at Williams I would have said MSU would walk, but a lot has change and this could be a very interesting game. A win by Minnesota would be huge and would punch their ticket to the NCAA tournament. Also with Purdue's loss at Ohio State a win at Michigan State would put the Gophers in first place. If you were to predict the Gophers would be playing in February for 1st place you could have won a lot of money. Here is a review of the Spartans:
Wins to Showcase:
- at Texas 67 - 63
- vs Kansas 75 - 62
- vs Northwestern 63 - 70
- vs Maryland 62 - 80
Things in Minnesota's Favor
- Raymar Morgan is sick. He has walking pneumonia and has been ineffective for the last 5 games. They are 3-2 in those five games. He is a 1st-Team All Big Ten player when healthy. They miss him a lot.
- Time to prepare. The Gophers haven't played since Thursday giving them 5 days to prepare. Michigan State played Sunday and has only had two days to prepare. You only need to turn to the Louisville game to see what can happen if Tubby has significantly more time to prepare.
- Ralph Sampson III: When Michigan State came to town he was still a timid jump shooter who couldn't rebound. He had 0 points, 0 rebounds and 4 fouls in 10 minutes against MSU. He has developed into the force that we thought he would become and I don't think the last two games are a fluke like the Mid-January Devron Bostick. His strong defensive presence and improved rebounding will be crucial to the Gophers success.
- Talent: Even without Raymar Morgan the Spartans have far more talent than the Gophers. Kailin Lucas, Goran Sutton, Delvon Roe, Chris Allen and others are all big time talents with various levels of NBA futures.
- It is a road game: The Gophers have yet to play a good game on the road. They have either been bailed out by choking (Wisconsin) or complete lack of talent (Iowa, Indiana, Colorado State). They have been trailing by double digits at some point in every road game so far this year. If they are down by double digits to MSU the game will be over.
- Tom Izzo: They are coming of a very disappointing loss to Penn State and should be playing at home with great urgency and intensity. Add to that the level of respect Izzo has for the Gophers. If you were to ask him who the best coach in the Big Ten is, he will say without hesitating that it is Tubby. He will make sure that this team is ready and will not come out flat.
I have been contemplating all week whether Minnesota could actually pull of the upset in East Lansing. I think they have a very good chance given the circumstances. I think the most important match up is Nolan vs. Lucas. In the first game Lucas schooled Nolen to the tune of 24 points. When MSU struggles it is because Lucas is struggling with his shot and control. If Nolen can force him to put up bad shots and play out of control the Gophers can win this. Their is a possibility but a lot has to go right for the Gophers to come out and I have yet to be impressed with them on the road this year and won't pick them to win a road game until I am. MSU should come out ready and while I think this game will be closer than the one at the Barn I think MSU will pull it out.
Michigan State 79, Minnesota 72