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Minnesota Basketball: Previewing Michigan

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Gophers look for revenge after near-miss in Ann Arbor

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Penn State Linsey Fagan-USA TODAY Sports

The Gophers picked up a victory in what was basically a must-win situation against Indiana on Saturday, which came in the form of a total blowout. It was a refreshing victory, not only because they broke a debilitating four-game losing streak that put the season on brink, but because they laid a 20-point victory over a team that actually had decent metrics despite its overall record.

At the end of the day, it means that Minnesota is still capable of playing at a high level, which we hadn’t seen in quite some time. And with the team needing at least two more victories down the stretch to feel good on Selection Sunday, rolling of a 20-point blowout isn’t the worst place to be.

Things don’t get any easier on Thursday, when the No. 7 Wolverines come to town. It’s a sneaky game. Michigan barely escaped in the previous matchup in Ann Arbor, and they’ve hardly been invincible on the road, suffering losses to Wisconsin, Iowa and Penn State this season. A win for the Gophers would be tremendous boost for the season.

Essentials:

Who are the Gophers playing?

Michigan Wolverines (12-3, 23-3)

What time are they playing?

Thursday, Feb. 21 @ 6 p.m. CT

Where are they playing?

Williams Arena

Can I watch the game on TV?

Yes, ESPN.

Can I listen to the game on the radio?

Yes, KTLK 1130-AM/103.5-FM

Tell me more about the opponent.

The Wolverines are a half-game behind Michigan State for the conference lead and tied with Purdue for second place. They are a very, very good team. They’ve lost just three times this year, each of which have come on the road. Right now they’re ranked 7th in the nation in both major polls and eighth in the NCAA’s NET rankings.

Freshman Ignas Brazdeikis hasn’t slowed down all season, and continues to lead the Wolverine offense, averaging 14.5 points per game which is second among Big Ten freshmen. He is one of three double-digit scorers, joining Charles Matthews (13.2 ppg) and Jordan Poole (12.8 ppg).

If Michigan is good at anything, it’s taking care of the ball, which is a John Beilein special. The Wolverines lead the nation with the fewest turnovers per game (9.3) and are third in scoring defense, allowing just 57.6 points per game. It’s basically impossible to score on this team, and they’ve given up more than 70 points just three times this season.

Predictions

The Gophers proved they can get back in the win column, and if the Big Ten has proven anything this year, it’s that anyone can beat anyone else on any given night. Can you pick Minnesota to win outright? No. But this will be a scrappy, hard-fought game. There is blood in the water now.

For a Minnesota squad that has trouble shooting, facing one of the premier defenses in the nation sounds scary. But the Gophers are long on defense and used that length to disrupt the Wolverines when the teams last met, pulling them down into the trenches. If they can lean on their frontcourt again and limit mistakes, they might have a chance.