Free Expert Picks: Akron Zips at Minnesota Golden Gophers NCAA Basketball Preview

Akron Zips at Minnesota Golden Gophers
Wednesday, 12/15/10, 8:30 PM EDT
Opening Point Spread:  Minnesota -15
Current Betting Line:  Minnesota -14.5
Opening Total:  139
Current Total:  139.5

The Minnesota Golden Gophers are double-digit home favorites against the Akron Zips tonight in Williams Arena

Akron suffered a humiliating 82-47 loss to Temple on December 12 in Philadelphia that snapped a two-game road winning streak.  The Zips have averaged just 50.5 points while shooting 33.6 percent from the field the past two games.  Entering this month of play, the team knew it would be extremely challenging in playing seven of its nine games on the road.  The seven road contests in one month is tied for the most in the school’s Division I era that started in 1980-81.  Earning a 3-1 record on this road trip will be extremely difficult in facing a squad that is 5-1 at Williams Arena this season.  Akron is 18-11 ATS on the road the past three years and is currently a double-digit underdog on the college basketball lines page.

The Zips welcomed back just two starters from last year’s 24-win team.  Akron hasn’t shuffled the lineup much in the early going, starting four players throughout the first seven games.  The team is still trying to find a breakout scorer and rebounder, which may be forward Nikola Cvetinovic down the road.  “I am an upperclassmen now,” he commented.  “It’s my junior year.  I have to be physically and mentally ready to play.”  He leads the team in scoring 13.4 points per game and is second on the squad in rebounding.  Akron is 4-18 all-time against the Big 10 Conference and will need to continue taking care of the ball in possibly pulling off the upset tonight.  The Zips lead the Mid-American Conference in assists and are second in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.24).

Minnesota is set to play its final contest before final exams and will not be on the court again until December 23.  The Gophers have met tonight’s opponent only once, defeating the Zips 86-59 during the 1991-92 season at Williams Arena.  A huge part of the team’s game early in the season has been blocked shots and steals, two categories that it currently leads the conference in.  They have swatted 57 shots for an average of 5.70 blocks per game, while swiping 88 balls for an average of 8.80 steals per contest.  In fact, Minnesota has led the Big Ten in both categories the last two seasons.  Since the start of the 1997 season, the squad is 5-1 ATS versus MAC competition.

The Gophers will be missing Al Nolen for a fifth consecutive game tonight and will anticipate having one of their best defensive players back in the lineup against South Dakota State.  Minnesota had given up an average of 75.3 points per game in the first three games without him before holding Eastern Kentucky to 58 points in a Saturday victory.  “Coach was just emphasizing shutting them down,” said Blake Hoffarber.  “Offense wasn’t really clicking, so we’ve got to win the game playing defense.”  Under Tubby Smith, the program is allowing just 59.2 points per game at tonight’s venue in 59 games.

Bettors will be interested in knowing that the Zips are 34-14-5 ATS after a SU loss, while the Gophers are 11-5 ATS in non-conference games.

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