Busting Brackets

Minnesota vs. Michigan: 2018-19 college basketball preview, TV schedule

ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN - JANUARY 22: Amir Coffey #5 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers tries to get a shot off around Ignas Brazdeikis #13 of the Michigan Wolverines during the first half at Crisler Arena on January 22, 2019 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN - JANUARY 22: Amir Coffey #5 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers tries to get a shot off around Ignas Brazdeikis #13 of the Michigan Wolverines during the first half at Crisler Arena on January 22, 2019 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

Minnesota is in a must-win game Thursday night against Michigan. Can the Gophers get a signature resume win?

TV Schedule: Thursday, February 21, 7:00 pm ET on ESPN

Arena: Williams Arena in Minneapolis, Minnesota

The Minnesota Golden Gophers just ended their four-game losing streak against Indiana, now they will have to salvage any chance they have left at an at-large bid. There will be five more games to get themselves on the right side of the bubble, the only problem is that the first one is none other against the ranked #7 Michigan Wolverines, in a Big Ten rematch from a near-upset earlier this season.

To say that the month of February hasn’t gone well for the Minnesota Golden Gopher’s 17-9(7-8)at-large hopes is an understatement, it has been borderline nightmarish. Starting the month off with five straight losses before getting a win by beating Indiana at home by 23 this past Saturday. Minnesota went from a team that was firmly in the field as per ESPN’s February 1 edition of Bracketology with Joe Lunardi with a nine-seed, to now the last “Last Four Bye” team with an 11-seed in the latest February 18 edition and a 12-seed on the latest edition of FanSided’s Bracketology.

Now we will find out if that win means that they have gotten out of this February nightmare and into the NCAA Tournament, or if it was just that they got lucky in one game. Whatever it was, they’ll need to channel it again as they have only five games left to secure their spot in the tournament, and the first one will be no easy task as they will face one of the best teams in the nation, the #7 Michigan Wolverines 23-3(12-3) at home in a rematch from earlier this season where Michigan won.

Before we begin, let’s look at their first encounter this season. This was almost a huge win for Minnesota at Michigan, where Minnesota scored ten straight points to tie the game with 30 seconds left before a buzzer-beater by Michigan’s Charles Matthews took away all hope from them. This was supposed to be a turning point for the Golden Gopher’s season for bigger and better things, not just a high single-digit seed that’s not projected to make it past the first weekend or Thursday of the tournament, it was supposed to mean things like becoming ranked or getting at least an eight-seed or better, and it looked like it in for the next two games where they beat a ranked #19 Iowa at home 92-87 and a good home showing against Illinois in an 86-75 win.

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Michigan will come into this game looking to not just beat Minnesota, but to tear them apart for three reasons. Reason one is because of the near upset mentioned above, which they will be looking to prove anybody wrong who believes that the Golden Gophers know their number. The second reason why they will look to blowout Minnesota is because they recently got embarrassed in a 75-69 loss at Penn State, the last place team in the Big Ten. They responded to that loss with an impressive 65-52 win at home against #24 Maryland, holding them to only 18 points in the first half, so they will be looking to continue what they did in their next performance.

Last but not least, Michigan is looking for their first regular season Big Ten Championship since 2014, and with them being behind .5 games, they can’t afford to lose anymore winnable games since they have two games against the Big Ten’s current leader to play, their in-state rival #10 Michigan State.

Minnesota will be looking to get the upset to save their season, which has been saved so far by their high Strength of Schedule ranking of 18th in the nation. That ranking has helped contribute to other high rankings that will get them into the tournament, such as them being ranked 50 in the NET and 46 in the KenPom(which means that even with the loss at Nebraska they increased their rankings since last week)

The Golden Gophers will look to their top three players to have another great game and get the upset dealt with. Senior forward Jordan Murphy who leads the team in rebounds with 11.9 per game, and is second in points per game with 15 and third in assists with 3.1 per game will lead the offense coming off a double-double in the last game against Illinois with 23 points and 11 rebounds which came off of another double-double in the Nebraska loss. This has led him to become this week’s Big Ten Player of the Week .

Backing him up is junior guard Amir Coffey who leads the team in points per game with 15.3 and with 18 points scored in his last game. Finally, the freshman guard Gabe Kalscheur will be looking to improve on what some may say was the best game of his season, scoring 20 points shooting 7-10, 6-8 from beyond the arc.

The Wolverines have Charles Matthews, a senior guard transfer from Kentucky who started on last year’s team that was runner-up in the NCAA Tournament to Villanova, he also scored the game-winning basket for the near-upset mentioned before and second on the team in points, rebounds, and steals per game with 13.2, 5.2, and 1.1. In addition they have Jordan Poole, who is second in assists with 2 per game and third in points and steals per game with 12.8 and 1.

He also made a notable contribution to last year’s team by scoring a game-winning 3-point buzzer-beater basket against Houston to put them into the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament. Lastly they have freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis who leads the team in points per game with 14.5 and a top 10 finalist for the Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year Award. (Something Minnesota’s Jordan Murphy was also nominated for)

Next. Projecting autobids for all 32 conferences. dark

In the end, even though the Michigan Wolverines may have more overall talent and skill than Minnesota, the Golden Gophers will have more heart as they will outplay their opponents to get the big win necessary for an at-large bid

Prediction: Minnesota Golden Gophers: 71, Michigan Wolverines 66