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Big Ten Opener, Gophers Hosting Michigan State - OPEN THREAD

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Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Where

MInneapolis

When

8:00 PM

How

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Pos. Minnesota Golden Gophers Pnt/Gm Pnt/Gm Michigan State Spartans Pos.
PG Nate Mason 13.0 7.5 Cassius Winston PG
G Dupree McBrayer 12.2 6.8 Matt McQuaid G
F Amir Coffey 15.8 6.0 Josh Langford G
F Jordan Murphy 11.0 13.2 Nick Ward F
C Reggie Lynch 9.2 1.8 Matt Van Dyk F
Bench Eric Curry 8.2 3.3 Tum Tum Nairn Jr. Bench
Bench Akeem Springs 6.7 13.4 Eron Harris Bench
Bench Michael Hurt 0.7 4.0 Alvin Ellis Bench

Predicting the Sparta lineup is a bit of a challenge. Tum Tum and Harris have often started but this team has really struggled this year and both came off the bench in their most recent non-conference game. Freshman Miles Bridges is the team's best player and has not played in recent games due to an injury, he's doubtful for tonight but if he were to play then things change dramatically.

But the Spartans have been a mess this year due to having such a young roster and playing a grueling schedule (Arizona, Duke, Kentucky, Baylor and Northeastern). They finished the non-conference season with an 8-5 record and come to The Barn as 6.5 point underdogs. Yeah, who would have thought right? The Gophers have done what they needed to do to get to 12-1, playing a much easier schedule. So tonight's Big Ten opener for both teams should be a good one.

Efficiency Stats (national rank in parenthesis if significant)

Minnesota (47) Florida St (52)
Off PPP 1.058 1.082
Def PPP 0.924 (22) 0.958
Off TO% 17.0% 21.2% (286)
Def TO% 19.5% 16.3% (310)
Off Reb % 29.9% 30.0%
Def Reb % 71.1% 71.7%

There are two interesting nuggets here for the Spartans, statistically. First you'll notice that their turnovers are really bad. They turn it over 21% of their possessions and they rank 310th nationally in forcing turnovers. That is a bad ratio. Now, typically a Tom Izzo team has been pretty high in turnovers with most years ranking outside the top 150 in offensive turnover percentage. But this year's team is looking worse in the turnover department than usual.

But what is very uncharacteristic of a Tom Izzo team is that this team isn't particularly good at rebounding. Typically the Spartans are a top 20 or top 30 defensive rebounding team. This one is currently 110th! Offensive rebounding is traditionally not in that top 20 range but ranking 170th is not typical.

The Gophers have very strong KenPom numbers...but once again it should be noted that their schedule is much weaker. Easier to outrebound, not turn over and score efficiently against weaker opponents. Not trying to diminish their 12-1 start but it is a fact. According to KenPom's adjusted SOS the Gophers have played the 6th toughest schedule among Big Ten teams, so it isn't exactly like they've only played cupcakes.

Keys to a Gopher Win

Maroon_key_medium Turnovers - So based on the stats above, turnovers might be a critically important stat tonight. Michigan State turns it over and doesn't generate any. Getting more transition baskets from turnovers than they do will help tremendously. Really even just limiting their quality possessions that end with a shot is going to help. I fear Tom Izzo and his team's traditionally excellent offensive execution.

Maroon_key_medium Make Free Throws - Not really a strength for either team but MSU is currently last in the Big Ten as 62% from the charity stripe. We get to the line a lot (2nd in the Big Ten in FT attempts). Facing what is supposed to be a good Big Ten team, at home...continuing to get to the line and actually making our free throws will be huge.

Maroon_key_medium3M Lead the Way - I'm quite excited about the play of Amir Coffey and how much Reggie Lynch has done to change how this team can defend. But this is their first Big Ten game and I'm going to look for Mason, McBrayer and Murphy to lead the way tonight. Maybe Coffey has a big game, but I'm looking at these three to be the tone-setters.

Prediction

This is going to be a real opportunity for the Gophers to steal a game before Michigan State eventually figures things out and becomes a real force. I fully believe that this Spartan team is pretty good, Tom Izzo is one of the best coaches in the country and they will figure it out. But right now they are struggling, this is a huge opportunity. With all that said, I think that a team that executes well is not good for this Gopher team. Assuming MSU plays with some discipline, I think they win.

Gophers drop this by 4.