clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Minnesota Basketball: Previewing Michigan State

The grind continues in East Lansing as Gophers look to right the ship

NCAA Basketball: Indiana at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

As expected, February began with a bang for the Gophers who had the unenviable task of playing both Purdue and Wisconsin to begin the month, which resulted in the first two-game losing streak of the season. Neither were blowouts, but with wins at a premium, the margin for error is beginning to shrink substantially for the Gophers, who need a victory in the worst way.

Things don’t get much easier on Saturday, when they head to Michigan State to face the 9th-ranked Spartans on the road in East Lansing. Looking like a favorite to win the conference outright not more than two weeks ago, the Spartans are in the midst of a curious three-game losing streak that has included losses to Purdue, Indiana and recent upstart Illinois. Which team will Minnesota get? That remains to be seen.

Essentials:

Who are the Gophers playing?

Michigan State Spartans (9-3, 18-5)

What time are they playing?

Saturday, Feb. 9 @ 1 p.m. CT

Where are they playing?

Breslin Center (East Lansing, Mich.)

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 Spartans have entered a serious rough patch over the past couple of weeks. While a loss on the road to Purdue is excusable, Sparty then dropped a home contest to Indiana in overtime before losing on the road to Illinois. That’s two losses to teams you wouldn’t expect from Big Ten title contender and it’s come alongside some personnel bumps as well.

Crybaby forward Nick Ward came off the bench against Illinois in what was described as a “teaching moment” for Tom Izzo. Read into that how you want, but at the end of the day Ward is currently playing his worst basketball of the season, having failed to eclipse the 11-point in four of his past five games. He’s still plenty dangerous, but you’ve got to wonder what’s going on there.

Cassius Winston leads the team in scoring and assists (and leads the B1G in the latter), and is one of the most dangerous players in the conference. He’s been a bit more turnover prone recently and committed an ugly nine TOs in the loss against Illinois.

Don’t get it wrong, Michigan State is still one of the best teams in the conference. They lead the B1G in scoring offense and scoring margin, and are second in three-point field goal percentage. They will torch you. But they’ve also given up more than 70 points in a game three times in a row after doing that just once since Dec. 16.

Predictions

The Gophers are between a rock and hard place, badly needing a win and playing on the road against one of the conference’s best teams. The silver lining is that they’re potentially catching the Spartans at an opportune time. Then again, it’s highly unlikely Tom Izzo is going to let this team drop four in a row, so I’m expecting a bounce back game from Sparty.

Minnesota hasn’t been terrible on the road in big spots, but you I can’t pick them to win in this situation. I’ll take Sparty by eight, 73-65.