East Region NCAA Tournament Odds, Picks: (10) Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. (7) Louisville Cardinals

(10) Minnesota v. (7) Louisville

Time: 11:15 AM CT (CBS)

Spread: LOU -5.5

Total: 135

Odds c/o 5dimes’

Louisville finished 20-13 with a 6th place finish in the ACC. It was bettered by Syracuse, Virginia Tech, Florida State, and Duke, within the conference. Louisville concluded its season by losing five of its final seven games, including a 70-83 loss to UNC in the ACC quarterfinals. The Cardinals are 5.5-point favorites as it faces a No. 10 seeded Minnesota team which finished 21-13 and 7th place in the Big Ten. Minnesota won four of its last six, but was obliterated by No. 10 ranked Michigan 49-76 in its season finale.

Minnesota

Minnesota is led by guard Amir Coffey. Coffey sees nearly 35 minutes a game and averages 16.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.1 steals/blocks per game. Forward Jordan Murphy is No. 2 in scoring while averaging a double-double at 14.8 points and 11.5 rebounds per game. Center Daniel Oturu anchors the paint with 10.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game while shooting 55 percent from the field. The Gophers averaged 70.8 points per game as a team and largely utilizes a seven-to-eight-man rotation.

Coffey closed the season strong. He had 32 points in 39 minutes against Purdue in a 73-69 win, which was followed by 23, 22, 21, and 14 point performances against Maryland, Penn State, Purdue (a second time), and Michigan. Coffey is an athletic wing who can finish well at the rim and he shoots a respectable 73 percent from the line. The Golden Gophers tallied a 9-2 record this season when Coffey scored 20-points or more in a game. Coffey got to the line 18 times in the win against Purdue and knocked down 13, so his presence as a rim attacker and his potential to get opposing bigs in foul trouble cannot be understated. At 6’8” 210 he is something of a tweener but is a talent very well fit for the NBA in the mold of a Wilson Chandler-type.

Minnesota began the 2018-19 season with five consecutive wins before falling to Boston College, but it was just 9-11 in Big Ten play and 12-2 in non-conference play. The Golden Gophers struggled defensively in surrendering 69.2 points per game while scoring 70.8 itself. The offense simply was not there in the finale loss to Michigan in Big Ten tournament play, and the Gophers also fell flat against Michigan in the teams’ prior meeting when then-No. 7 Michigan defeated Minnesota 69-60. The Gophers finished with a 5-7 record against AP ranked opponents.

LOU

Louisville had a 10-8 mark in ACC play and was 10-5 against non-conference opponents this season. The Cardinals suffered its first loss this season in its fourth game against then-No. 5 Tennessee. It then proceeded to lose to the Marquette Eagles, before defeated a tough top-10 Michigan State team. The Cardinals fared 4-7 against AP-ranked opponents, and it fell 70-83 to No. 3 ranked UNC in the ACC tournament. In the loss, Dwayne Sutton had 14 points, six rebounds, four assists and one block while hitting 5 of 10 from the field and 4 of 9 from three-point range. Louisville also got 10 points and 13 boards from starting 5-man Malik Williams, an the Cardinals’ bench produced 35 points on collective 13 of 29 shooting. Louisville is utilizing a 9-man rotation this season, and every player in that rotation saw at least 13 minutes in the loss to UNC.

Louisville is led by Jordan Nwora. The forward averaged 17.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.4 steals/blocks per game while shooting 37 percent from behind the arc. Sutton averaged 10 points and seven boards while coming up with 1.2 steals/blocks. The Cardinals averaged 74.5 points per game as a team while shooting 77.5 percent from the line and 34.2 percent from behind the arc. Louisville has seven players that shoot 31 percent or better from three-point range, including five players above 35 percent. Nwora averaged just 12 minutes per game in 2017-18 and averaged a mere 5.7 points per game, but this season he saw his minutes nearly triple to 32 per game and he produced. Nwora struggled badly against North Carolina, but in the three games prior to that, he averaged 21 points per game while also grabbing 8.6 rebounds per game. At 6’8” 215 pounds, Nwora projects to be a small forward, and he has the athleticism to be an elite wing defender.

Sutton is a 6’5 200 pound junior forward who has the strength and power of a forward in a guard’s stature. He had two 10-rebound efforts in the last five games, grabbing 10 against Notre Dame in 29 minutes and 10 against Boston College in 27 minutes. He saw major minutes as a freshman in 2015-16 and averaged 12 points and 7.7 rebounds per game but saw his minutes decline his sophomore season. This season he is nearly matching his freshman production while shooting far better from the free throw line (75.6 percent). He played well against the Tar Heels in coming up with 14 points, six rebounds, and four assists, but he struggled to score against a big Notre Dame team shooting just 22 percent from the field en route to five points.

Steven Enoch is the center of Louisville at 6’10” 250 pounds. He is not a premier shot blocker despite his length, averaging just 0.7 blocks per game to go with 9.3 points and 5.2 rebounds in 19 minutes a night. He is a junior but did not play the last two seasons after playing 27 games in the 2015-16 season. His best recent game was a 22 point, six rebound effort in a 59-66 loss to Boston College on Feb. 27. In the season concluding loss to the Tar Heels, he played just 13 minutes but scored 12 points and had three rebounds.

Conclusion

This is a battle largely between two very good scorers in Nwora and Coffey. Ultimately, Coffey is probably going to win this matchup as an underdog. He’s a more prolific scorer with a wider arsenal of moves, though Nwora is a good defender on the wing. Coffey will give the Cardinals’ guards a lot of trouble.

If Minnesota can get Coffey going, the record bodes well for it as illustrated by its 9-2 record in games he has scored 20 or more in. Louisville is being selected as a 74.9 percent favorite according to ESPN’s Power Index and it is a 5.5-point Vegas favorite. Keep an eye on Coffey’s ability to potentially get both Enoch and Sutton into early foul trouble. In a game that should be close, we are going to opt for the underdog due to its elite weapon on the backcourt..

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