Big Ten Basketball Battle: A look at Minnesota-Michigan St

Minnesota Golden Gophers at Michigan St Spartans, Jack Breslin Events Center, East Lansing, MI
Friday, December 31, 2010, 4:00 pm Eastern, TV: Big Ten Network
Opening Line: Michigan St -8
Current Line: Michigan St -7
Opening Total: 137
Current Total: 138
Money Line: MSU -330 / Minnesota +270

Kalin Lucas and the Michigan St Spartans haven't lived up to expectations so far this season. They hope to turn things around as they open confernence play against Minnesota.

The 8-4 Michigan St Spartans haven’t lived up to the loft expectations of a team that returns almost all it’s starters from a team that went to the Final Four last year. They were #2 in the pre-season rankings, but have plummeted to number 20. It is only because they have played an exceedingly difficult schedule that they are still ranked with 4 losses. The Spartans have lost to Connecticut, Duke, Syracuse, and Texas. The first three are currently ranked in the top ten and Texas is #18. In fact a victory over then #11 Washington in the consolation game of the Maui Invitational is the Spartans only victory over a top 25 opponent. A win over South Carolina is the only other quality win for the Spartans. Michigan St hopes to regroup as they begin conference play at home against the 14th ranked 11-2  Minnesota Golden Gophers. Minnesota lost at Wisconsin earlier in the week 68-60 to open conference play. Before that game they had won 5 straight after a loss to Virginia December 4th. The Gophers have quality wins over West Virginia and North Carolina in a tournament in Puerto Rico earlier in the season. Michigan St has won 11 straight games in the series at home versus Minnesota and won each game by an average of 18 points. The Spartans have won 8 out the last 9 meetings in all venues, though Minnesota did win in the Big Ten Tournament last year the last time the teams played 72-67 in overtime.

Minnesota is outscoring opponents 76-68 on the season. The Gophers are shooting 46.7% from the field and 34.2% from 3 point range. Gopher opponents are shooting 39.2% from the field. Minnesota struggles at the free throw line converting only 62.9% of their chances. Four Gophers score in double figures. Senior Guard Blake Hoffarber leads the team in scoring with 13.8 ppg and assists with 4.7 a game. He is also averaging 3.4 rebounds and 1.5 steals a game. Junior forward Trevor Mbakwe is almost averaging a double double. He leads the team in rebounding with 9.9 a game and scoring 13.1 ppg. He also averages 1.1 steals and 1.2 blocks a game. Junior guard Devoe Joseph averages 12.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg, and 3.9 assists a game. Junior forward/center Ralph Sampson III is averaging 11.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg, and 2 blocks a game to lead the team. Senior guard Al Nolen leads the team in steals with 2.4 a game. Minnesota averages 41.0 rebounds a game and has a rebounding margin of +6.7. The Gophers average 17 assists a game and 14.2 turnovers a game. They are forcing 14.3 turnovers a game on defense. The Gophers average 5.5 blocks and 8.2 steals a game.

Michigan St is outscoring opponents 76-67 on the season. The Spartans are shooting 45.8% from the field and 40.0% from 3 point range. The Spartans are holding opponents to 39.7% shooting from the field. The Spartans make 67.3% of their free throws. Senior guard Durrell Summers leads the team in scoring with 15.2 ppg. He is also averaging 4.8 rebounds a game. Senior guard Kalin Lucas is averaging 14.9 points, 2.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.3 steals a game. Junior Forward Draymond Green averages 11.8 ppg, and leads the team in rebounds with 8.9 a game & steals with 1.8 a game. He is second on the team in assists with 3.8 a game and blocks with 1.2 a game. The very versatile Green is only 6’7″ which makes his defensive prowess even more impressive. Summers, Lucas, and Green are all shooting more than 40% from 3 point range.   Korie Lucious leads the Spartans in assists with 4 a game. Delvon Roe leads the team in blocks with 1.3 a game.   Michigan St averages 39.8 rebounds a game and has a rebounding margin of +4.1. Michigan St averages 16.2 assists and 16.2 turnovers a game. The Spartans force 15.3 turnovers a game on defense. They also average 8.2 steals and 4.7 blocks a game.

Michigan St is much more talented than their record would indicate. They have the talent to be one of the nation’s elite programs and the brutal non-conference slate should help them in the extremely tough Big Ten in which a 10-8 or 9-9  conference record will probably get you into the NCAA tournament. There are currently 6 teams ranked in the top 25 from the Big Ten, and Northwestern is receiving votes. Both of these teams have depth and balanced scoring. They both rebound really well. Minnesota struggles at the free throw line and that could hurt them if the game is close. Neither of these can afford to lose this game as it will put them in a hole in the conference standings. It should be a great game to close out 2010.

Our college basketball handicappers are red hot this season as the conference season begins. Have a great and prosperous New Year as out handicappers are releasing winners every day.

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