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Minnesota Basketball: Previewing Michigan

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Rutgers, Illinois, Penn State ... Michigan?

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

The Gophers barely survived Penn State at home, battling back from a halftime deficit to take down the Nittany Lions by one and get on the winning side of the equation. While it wasn’t pretty, Minnesota notched another conference win and held serve at home, which is exactly what they need to be doing against teams like Penn State (and anyone, really). At the end of the day, a win is a win, and the second half was a markedly better effort than the first, if we’re keeping track.

Things intensify quite immensely on Tuesday, when the Gophers head out to Ann Arbor to take on the #5 Michigan Wolverines, who are fresh off their first loss of the season, which came on the road against Wisconsin. That’s right, the same Wisconsin the Gophers took down on the road just over two weeks ago. So, if my transitive math is correct it’s Minnesota > Wisconsin > Michigan. Right?

Michigan is good — they’ve notched wins over North Carolina, Villanova, Purdue and Indiana already this season, each of which came at home, and while the Gophers do have a notable road victory in that Wisconsin win, they’ve been anything but effective away from home in their other matchups. This will be a tall order.

Essentials:

Who are the Gophers playing?

Michigan Wolverines (6-1, 17-1)

What time are they playing?

Tuesday, Jan. 22 @ 6 p.m. CT

Where are they playing?

Crisler Center (Ann Arbor, Mich.)

Can I watch the game on TV?

Yes, BTN.

Can I listen to the game on the radio?

Yes, KFAN 100.3-FM

Tell me more about the opponent.

Michigan who? Oh, right, the national runners-up from last year. I remember them. Moritz Wagner and Muhammad-Ali Adbur-Rahkman are gone, but they still have all of your favorite scorers, such as Zavier Simpson, Jordan Poole, and Charles Matthews. Oh, and they stumbled on Lithuanian freshman Ignas “Izzy” Brazdeikis who is doing no less than leading the team in scoring in his first season with almost 15 ppg and 5 rpg. Maybe teams are starting to figure him out, though, as he was held scoreless in his most recent game against Wisconsin.

The Wolverines have a stout defense, and are ranked third in the nation according to KenPom. They also have incredible offensive efficiency, and are eighth in the nation at taking care of the ball. They score, they don’t turn it over and they don’t put teams at the line. The latter is particularly troublesome, as the Gophers have been really good at getting to the line this season.

What to Watch For

Amir Coffey bouncing back ... again.
Saturday marked the second game in a row where Amir Coffey was largely ineffective, scoring only 11 points on 3-11 shooting. That means in two games he’s scored 20 points on 5-24 shooting. He’s definitely pressing, which is concerning after he appeared to have figured things out in games before that. Jordan Murphy picked up a significant part of the slack in against Penn State, but against a firehose like Michigan the Gophers are going to need their top players to come to play, and that starts with Coffey getting back on track.

Predictions

Not surprisingly, KenPom likes Michigan in this one, giving the Wolverines a 14-point advantage, 74-60. That seems a bit high, but given the way the Gophers are playing it doesn’t seem absurd. However, I like Minnesota to at least keep it close and competitive, taking a six-point digger, 72-66.