Michigan State searches for its first B1G win in a huge road test at Minnesota.
TV Schedule: Monday, December 28, 8:00 pm ET. Big Ten Network
Arena: Williams Arena in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Just two games into its young conference season, it is clear that the Big Ten will be the deepest and arguably the most entertaining conference in the nation. Every single night will be a battle and no game can be overlooked.
Michigan State (6-2, 0-2 Big Ten) is already finding itself faced up against the wall. While the 20-game Big Ten conference schedule is a marathon and not a sprint, the Spartans have lost their first two games at Northwestern and against Wisconsin, both in which they were favored.
Marquette transfer Joey Hauser has starred for Michigan State, averaging 14 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. His 27 points against Wisconsin on Christmas Day are the highest any Michigan State player has scored this season. Junior forward Aaron Henry (12 PPG) and sophomore Rocket Watts (10.9 PPG) are the other double-digit scorers for the Spartans, ranked 11th in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency per KenPom.
Minnesota (8-1, 1-1 Big Ten) is using a healthy combination of returnees and newcomers to get off to their best start since the 2017-18 season. The Golden Gophers are coming off of a season-defining win at home against 4th-ranked Iowa on Christmas night. Marcus Carr starred with 30 points in the improbable overtime comeback victory (Minnesota only had a 7% chance to win with 30 seconds left, per ESPN’s BPI).
Carr is playing like a bonafide All-American for the Golden Gophers, averaging 24.6 points, 6.2 assists, and 3.8 rebounds per game. Minnesota has also welcomed major contributions from two impact transfers. Liam Robbins, the 7-foot transfer from Drake, is averaging 12.6 PPG while Utah transfer Both Gach (12.3 PPG) has formed a formidable duo in the backcourt with Marcus Carr.
It is hard to call a December game a must-win contest, but it is definitely close to it for Michigan State. 0-3 in the conference would be a deep hole for the Spartans, and the calendar has not even flipped to 2021 yet.
For Minnesota, Monday’s game is the start of a six-game stretch against nationally-ranked teams. A win could prove that the Golden Gophers are a legitimate threat in the Big Ten this season.
While Minnesota’s start has been great, I have a feeling that Michigan State will find a way on the road and improve to 1-2 in the conference in its last game of 2020.
Prediction: Michigan State 83, Minnesota 77