Minnesota is dancing! Despite knowing that the Gophers have been destined to play in March for weeks, tonight is still an unexpected joy for me as a fan. I hope everyone can celebrate and enjoy it!
For those who already want to know more about the Minnesota Golden Gophers first opponent, here is a quick breakdown of the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders.
Record: 30-4 (17-1)
Where they’re from: Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Conference: Conference USA
Overall Ranking: 48th (for reference, Minnesota is 33rd)
Off Efficiency Rank: 55th
Def Efficiency Rank: 47th
Reasons to fear this game: GopherNation did some looking back at all teams seeded #12 or higher that have won their first NCAA Tournament game in the last several seasons. His goal was to identify and a statistical profile of teams that won. He found that high seeds pulling the upset were all stronger in two key stats:
- defensive efficiency
- offensive eFG%
MTSU is 47th in defensive efficiency and 35th in Off eFG%. Based on what he found, these are good numbers and are reasons to worry about the Blue Raiders.
In all honestly, this is probably one of the tougher first round draws Minnesota could have gotten. MTSU will be the trendy upset pick.
Why this is a good draw for the Gophers: While this isn’t the best draw the Gophers could have gotten for their first game, a win over MTSU would put Minnesota in much better position in Round 2. The Butler Bulldogs are a good team (you’d don’t beat Villanova twice if you aren’t) but seeing them in a location that could be full of Minnesota fans is a lot better than seeing a Louisville or Kentucky in Indianapolis for example.
Quick prediction: Minnesota in a tight one. While I think we win, I don’t think we’ll be breathing easy.
How to watch
When: Thursday, March 16th, 3pm
Streaming: March Madness Live
Minnesota and MTSU will tip at approximately 3:00 p.m. on TNT.— Minnesota MBB (@GopherMBB) March 13, 2017