NIT Quarterfinals Betting Picks: Minnesota Golden Gophers at Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

2012 NIT Quarterfinals
#6 Minnesota Golden Gophers at #4 Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
Murphy Athletic Center – Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Wednesday, March 21, 2012, 7:00 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN2
Opening Line: MTSU -3
Current Line: MTSU -3
Opening Total: 134
Current Total: 134 1/2
Opening Money Line: MTSU -140 / Minnesota +120
Current Money Line: MTSU -150 / Minnesota +130

Minnesota travels to Middle Tennessee in an NIT quarterfinal game Wednesday night. Teh winner will take on washington in the semifianls next week in New York.

The Middle Tennessee St Blue Raiders, coached by Kermit Davis won the Sun Belt Conference regular season title with a 27-6 record. The Blue Raiders lost to Arkansas St in the Sun Belt quarterfinals, and were not selected for an at large bid to the NCAA tournament. MTSU did receive a bid to the NIT as a #4 seed. The Blue Raiders beat #5 seed Marshall 86-78 in the first round and upset #1 seed Tennessee 71-64 in the second round Monday in Knoxville. The Volunteers had a 64-56 lead with 7 minutes to go, but MTSU closed the game on a 15-0 run to come back. Junior guard Bruce Massey had 20 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, and a block for the Blue Raiders.

Next up for MTSU is a Quarterfinal date with #6 seed Minnesota. The winner will play Washington in next week’s semifinals at Madison Square Garden in New York. The 21-14 Golden Gophers, coached by Tubby Smith, have won 4 of their last 5 games after a 6 game losing streak. Minnesota lost to Michigan St in the Big Ten quarterfinals. The Golden Gophers upset #3 LaSalle 70-61 in the first round and #2 Miami-Florida 78-60 in the second round Monday night. Both games were on the road. Minnesota dominated a seemingly uninterested Miami team from start to finish in the rout. Minnesota never trailed as they started the game on a 12-0 run. Rodney Williams had 21 points for the Gophers.

This is the third meeting between Minnesota and Middle Tennessee. Each team has won once, but they haven’t played since 1992.

Minnesota has wins over Bucknell, South Dakota St, DePaul, Indiana St, Virginia Tech, USC, Central Michigan, North Dakota St, Indiana, Penn St, Northwestern twice, Illinois, and Nebraska twice. The Gophers started off the season 12-1 but went 8-13 for the rest of the season after leading scorer and rebounder Trevor Mbakwe went down for the season with a leg injury. Minnesota has losses to Dayton, Illinois, Michigan, Iowa twice, Purdue, Michigan St 3 times, Wisconsin twice, Ohio St, Northwestern, and Indiana.

MTSU has wins over Austin Peay twice, Loyola Marymount, UCLA, Akron, Belmont, and Ole Miss. In conference they had losses to Denver and Western Kentucky, but swept everyone else. The Blue Raiders have additional losses to Belmont, UAB, and Vanderbilt.

Minnesota is outscoring opponents 68-64 this season. The Golden Gophers are shooting 46.1% from the field, including 35.5% from 3 point range. Minnesota makes 69.5% of their free throws. The Gophers average 34.8 rebounds a game, and have a rebounding margin of +4. Minnesota averages 15.3 assists, 14.2 turnovers, 4.9 blocks and 7.2 steals a game. Minnesota opponents are shooting 41.4% from the field including 35.2% from 3 point range. Minnesota is forcing  12.9 turnovers a game.

Williams averages 11.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.4 blocks a game. He leads the team in scoring, steals, rebounds, and blocks. Julian Welch is averaging 10.1 points, 2.5 rebounds, 3 assists to lead the team, and 1 steals a game. He shoots 42.7% from 3 point range. Austin Hollins averages 9.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.9assists, and 1.1 steals a game. Andre Hollins averages 7.9 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 1.6 assists a game. Ralph  Sampson III averages 7.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.3 blocks a game. He is day to day with a knee injury.  Forward Maurice Walker is questionable with a knee injury, but hasn’t played yet this season. Forward Oto Osenieks is questionable with a head injury.

MTSU is outscoring opponents 72-62 this season. The Blue Raiders are shooting 49.7% from the field and 37.1% from 3 point range. MTSU is #4 in the country in field goal percentage. The Blue Raiders make 62.8% of their free throws. MTSU averages 35 rebounds a game with a rebounding margin of +2.3. The Blue Raiders average 15.7 assists, 13.7 turnovers, 7.1 steals, and 4.5 blocks a game. MTSU opponents are shooting 39.4% from the field and 31.9% from 3 point range. The Blue Raiders force 15.2 turnovers a game.

MTSU forward LeRon Dendy averages 14.9 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.5 blocks a game. Dendy leads the team in scoring, rebounds, and blocks. Marcos Knight averages 11.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.3 steals a game. J.T. Sulton averages 10.6 points and 5.3 rebounds a game. Raymond Cintron, Shawn Jones, and Massey all get significant time in the rotation as well. Massey leads the Raiders in assists with 4 a game and steals with 1.6 a game.

Minnesota is 18-13-1 ATS and the total is 16-15-1 this season. MTSU is 20-11 ATS and the total is 16-14-1 this season. The Golden Gophers are 5-0 ATS after a cover, against teams with winning records, in road games, and in road games against teams with winning home records, 6-0 overall, 4-1 in non-conference games, and 2-5-1 in Wednesday games. The Blue Raiders are 13-3-1 ATS in non-conference games, 7-2 against teams with winning records, 3-1-1 in Wednesday games, 18-7 after a straight up win, and 2-5 at home.

Minnesota seems to be peaking at the and is playing some of their best basketball of the year. Middle Tennessee has been consistently good all season. The Blue Raiders have only lost one time all year at home and that was to a good Belmont team in double overtime. I think MTSU pulls out a close game at home.

Our college basketball handicappers are red hot this month. Don’t miss out on any more winners for the rest of the post-season.

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