2017 NCAA Tournament
South Region – First Round
#5 Minnesota Golden Gophers vs #12 Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
Thursday, March 16, 2017, 4:00 pm Eastern, TV: TNT
BMO Harris Bradley Center – Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Opening Line: Minnesota -1 1/2
Current Line: Middle Tennessee -1
Opening Total: 134 1/2
Current Total: 136
Opening Money Line: Minnesota -115 / Middle Tennessee -105
Current Money Line: Middle Tennessee -115 / Minnesota -105
The 24-9 Minnesota Golden Gophers take on the 30-4 Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders Thursday in the South Region first round in Milwaukee. Minnesota finished fourth in the Big Ten with an 11-7 record and is the #5 seed in the region. Middle Tennessee won the Conference USA regular season title with a 17-1 record and is the #12 seed. The winner between Minnesota and Middle Tennessee will face either #4 Butler or #13 Winthrop in the second round Saturday. The Golden Gophers lead the series 4-1 against Middle Tennessee including a victory in the 2012 NIT.
Middle Tennessee is making their ninth trip to the NCAA Tournament including three in the last five seasons. The Blue Raiders are coached by Kermit Davis and upset #2 seed Michigan State last season in the NCAA Tournament. Middle Tennessee has won 10 straight games including beating Marshall 83-72 in the Conference USA Championship game last Saturday.
Middle Tennessee has home losses to Tennessee State and Georgia State, plus road losses to Virginia Commonwealth and UTEP. The Blue Raiders have home wins over Murray State, Toledo, Vanderbilt, UAB, Rice, Marshall, Western Knetucky, Southern Miss, Louisiana Tech, Old Dominion, Charlotte, Florida Atlantic and Florida International. MTU has road wins over Ole Miss, South Alabama, Belmont, Rice, North Texas, FIU, FAU, UTSA, Western Kentucky, Marshall and UAB, plus neutral site wins over UNC-Wilmington, Toledo and Evansville in Nashville, plus UTSA, UTEP and Marshall in the CUSA Tournament in Birmingham. The Blue Raiders are 23-10 ATS and the total is 13-20 this season. Middle Tennessee was a 10 point favorite against Marshall and the total was 158.
Minnesota is coached by Richard Pitino. The Golden Gophers are making their 13th appearance in the NCAA Tournament and first since 2013. The Golden Gophers beat Michigan State 63-58 in the Big Ten quarterfinals but were beaten in the semifinals 84-77 by eventual champion Michigan.
Minnesota has road losses at Florida State, Michigan State, Penn State, Ohio State, Rutgers, and Wisconsin, plus home losses to Michigan State and Maryland. The Golden Gophers have home wins over UL-Lafayette, UT-Arlington, Mount St. Mary’s, St. John’s, Arkansas, Southern Illinois, Georgia Southern, Northern Illinois, Arkansas State, Ohio State, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Penn State, and Nebraska, plus road wins over Purdue, Northwestern, Illinois, Rutgers and Maryland. The Golden Gophers have a neutral site win over Vanderbilt in Sioux Falls, SD. Minnesota is 19-12 ATS and the total is 18-13 this season. The Golden Gophers were 4 point underdogs against Michigan and the total was 135.
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Middle Tennessee is outscoring teams 75-63 this season. The Blue Raiders are #20 in scoring nationally. The Blue Raiders are shooting 49% from the field and 36.8% from three point range. MTU is #12 in field goal percentage nationally. Middle Tennessee makes 69.8% of their free throws. Opponents are shooting 41.7% from the field and 31.9% from three point range. The Blue Raiders average 35.5 rebounds per game and opponents average 27.8 per game. MTU is #12 nationally in rebounds allowed. The Blue Raiders average 15.3 assists, 10.4 turnovers, 6.9 steals and 2.9 blocks. Opponents average 10.9 assists, 13.5 turnovers, 4.8 steals and 2.4 blocks per game.
JaCorey Williams averages 17.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game. Giddy Potts averages 15.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.4 steals per game. Reggie Upshaw averages 14.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.1 steals per game. Five other players get significant time in the rotation but no one scores more than 5.8 points a game.
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Minnesota is outscoring teams 75-69 this season. The Golden Gophers are shooting 43.5% from the field and 34.5% from 3 point range. Minnesota makes 70.7% of their free throws. Opponents are shooting 39.8% from the field and 30.5% from three point range. The Gophers are #16 or better in both categories. Minnesota averages 39.9 rebounds per game and opponents average 34.2. Minnesota is #15 in rebounds allowed nationally. The Gophers average 14.9 assists, 11.7 turnovers, 6.8 steals and 5.7 blocks per game. Opponents average 13.4 assists, 12.8 turnovers, 3.7 steals and 5.7 blocks per game.
Nate Mason averages 15.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1.3 steals per game. Amir Coffey averages 12.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists and and 1.1 steals per game. Jordan Murphy averages 11.2 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game. Dupree McBrayer averages 10.9 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 2.7 rebounds per game. Guard Akeem Springs averages 9.5 points, 3 rebounds, and 1.3 assists. He is out for the season with an Achilles’ injury. Reggie Lynch averages 8.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game. Eric Curry will also get time in the rotation. Davonte Fitzgerald is out for the season with a knee injury.
Middle Tennessee is 4-0 ATS in neutral site games and as a neutral site favorite, 6-0 as a favorite of less than 6.5 points, 6-1 in non-conference games, 9-3 in Thursday games, 21-7 overall, 20-7 after a straight up win, 19-7 as a favorite and ATS, and 20-8 against teams with winning records.
Minnesota is 5-0 ATS against Conference USA teams, 4-1 after failing to cover, 8-3 overall, 9-4 in Thursday games, 2-5 as an underdog, 5-17 as un underdog of less than 6.5 points, 2-7 in neutral site games, 1-4 in NCAA Tournament games and 0-4 as an NCAA Tournament underdog, and 0-6 as a neutral site underdog.
Both of these teams are comfortable playing in the 70’s, but Middle Tennessee has a slightly better defense. The Blue Raiders are a trendy pick to make a deep run in the tournament and I think they win this game.