Washington Huskies vs Minnesota Golden Gophers in NIT Semifinals in New York City

2012 National Invitation Tournament Semifinals
#6 Minnesota Golden Gophers vs #1 Washington Huskies
Madison Square Garden – New York, New York
Tuesday, March 27, 2012, 9:30 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN2
Opening Line: Washington -1
Current Line: pick
Opening Total: 140 1/2
Current Total: 143 1/2
Opening Money Line: Washington -120 / Minnesota +100
Current Money Line: Washington -115 / Minnesota -105

Washington takes on Minnesota in the NIT semifinals Tuesday in New York City. The Huskies are a slight favorite.

The 22-14 Minnesota Golden Gophers of the Big Ten face off against the 24-10 Washington Huskies of the Pac 12. The winner will advance to Thursday’s championship game against either Stanford or UMass.

Minnesota, coached by Tubby Smith, tied for 9th place in the Big Ten. They lost to Michigan in the Big Ten quarterfinals. The Gophers are peaking at the right time after a 3-8 finish to the regular season. Minnesota won three road games in the NIT to get to the semifinals. The Gophers won at LaSalle 70-61, at Miami-Florida, 78-60, and beat Middle Tennessee St 78-72 in the quarterfinals. The game against MTSU was back and forth until Minnesota took the lead for good with just under 14 minutes to go. Rodney Williams and Andre Hollins each scored 24 points for Minnesota in the win. The Gophers won the NIT in 1993 and 1996, but the 1996 title was vacated later.

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.

Washington, coached by Lorenzo Romar, won the Pac 12 regular season title, but were upset in the Pac 12 quarterfinals by Oregon St. The Huskies became the first school to win a Power 6 conference regular season title and not get an at large bid to the NCAA tournament. The Huskies beat Texas-Arlington 82-72 in the first round, Northwestern 76-55 in the second round, and Pac 12 rival Oregon 90-86 in the quarterfinals, all in Seattle. Washington took a 75-65 lead with 7 minutes to go against Oregon and held off a Duck rally for the win. Terrence Ross scored 24 points, and Tony Wroten scored 22 points for the Huskies in the win. Washington has never won the NIT or even made it to the semifinals before this season.Washington played games at MSG earlier this season against Marquette and Duke and lost both.

Washington has additional losses to Saint Louis, Nevada, South Dakota St, Colorado, Cal, and UCLA. The Huskies have wins over UC-Santa Barbara, Oregon St twice, Utah, Washington St twice, Stanford, Arizona St twice, Arizona twice, UCLA, and USC twice.

Washington leads the series 9-6 against Minnesota, but the two schools haven’t played since 1991. They have never met in the post-season before.

Minnesota is outscoring opponents 68-64 this season. The Golden Gophers are shooting 46.5% from the field, including 36.1% from 3 point range. Minnesota makes 70.1% of their free throws. The Gophers average 34.9 rebounds a game, and have a rebounding margin of +4.3. Minnesota averages 15.1 assists, 14.3 turnovers, 4.9 blocks and 7.1 steals a game. Minnesota opponents are shooting 41.3% from the field including 34.5% from 3 point range. Minnesota is forcing  12.8 turnovers a game.

Williams averages 12.1 points, 5.5 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 9.9 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists to lead the team, and 1 steals a game. He shoots 45% from 3 point range. Austin Hollins averages 9.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.1 steals a game. Andre Hollins averages 8.5 points, 2 rebounds, and 1.8 assists a game. Ralph  Sampson III averages 7.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.3 blocks a game. He is doubtful 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. Leading scorer and rebounder Trevor Mbakwe is out for the season with a torn ACL.

Washington is outscoring opponents 76-70 this season. Washington shoots 45% from the field and 34.4% from 3 point range. The Huskies make 62.3% from the free throw line. Washington is 6th nationally in rebounding with 40 a game, and have a rebounding margin of +6.2. The Huskies average 13.6 assists, 13.1 turnovers, 6.5 steals, and 4 blocks a game. Husky opponents are shooting 42.1% from the field and 32.9% from 3 point range. Washington forces 13.6 turnovers a game.

Washington guard Terrence Ross averages 16.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.2 steals, and 0.9 blocks a game. Ross makes 36.9% of his 3 point attempts. Tony Wroten is averaging 16.2 points, 5 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.9 steals a game. Wroten leads the Huskies in steals.   Guard C.J. Wilcox averages 14.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.2 assists a game.  Wilcox makes 41.1% from 3 point range.  Abdul Gaddy averages 8.1 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 5.2 assists to lead the team. Aziz N’Diaye averages 8 points,  7.3 rebounds, and 1 block a game to lead the team in the latter two categories. Darnell Gant averages 7 points and 5.3 rebounds a game. Guard Scott Suggs is out for the season with turf toe.

Washington is 17-15 ATS this season and the total is 16-16 this season. Minnesota is 19-13-1 this season and the total is 17-15-1 this season. The Huskies are 6-1 ATS after failing to cover, 8-3 in Tuesday games, and 5-2 in non-conference games. The Gophers are 7-0 ATS, 6-0 after a cover, and against teams with winning records, 4-0 after a straight up win, 5-1 in non-conference games, 4-1 against Pac 12 teams, and 2-10 in Tuesday games.

I would give Minnesota a better shot if they weren’t so banged up in the front court. Though Washington was disappointed not to get an NCAA bid, that feeling has long since been replaced by an urge to keep to their season going and winning the NIT Championship. Washington wins but it will come down to the wire.

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