Minnesota lost to Michigan 76-49. The Gophers will now wait to see if they are in the NCAA Tournament tomorrow. Amir Coffey led all Minnesota scorers with 14 points.
Today was a game that was not to be for Minnesota. Perhaps best encapsulated by the fact that Minnesota missed twice as many dunks as they made, the Gophers were out of sorts on the offensive end. Michigan presents a difficult matchup for any team, but particularly the Gophers. The Wolverines are a potential Final Four contender, and showed why today. The game was tied at 13-13 with a little over ten minutes remaining in the first half. By halftime, the score was 38-19 Michigan.
In some sense, it is difficult to evaluate just what specifically went wrong. That will be for Pitino and the coaching staff. If I had to pick three problems, it would be Minnesota’s inability to be aggressive on offense. To be fair, it is difficult for any team to consistently get to the basket against the Wolverines. They are well-coached on both ends of the floor, and have the size and length to switch everything and contest from the three point line in. Nevertheless, Minnesota was a step slow for most of the game that mattered. Whether that was the fatigue of playing their third game in three days, frustration, or a poor game plan I am not sure.
Second, Minnesota could not hit open shots. They started 1-6 from the free throw line and finished 3-9. The Gophers were just 2-12 from behind the arc. Every shot on offense became more difficult once the easy ones refused to fall. Minnesota began forcing shots from outside. Gabe Kalscheur and Dupree McBrayer combined for 4-17 shooting on the night. Against any team, Minnesota will struggle to win if they cannot get production from guards not named Amir Coffey. Against Michigan, they did not have chance.
Third, Minnesota ran into a Michigan team that had recently kidnapped every symbol of luck on the planet. That is not to take away from Michigan’s talent. The Wolverines should be a reasonably large favorite regardless. However, when a team banks in a three, gets two to fall after bouncing twice off the rim, and gets a gift deep one from Zavier Simpson, the Wolverines are impossible to beat.
This game does nothing to change whether Minnesota should make the NCAA Tournament. Our blog view is that the Gophers should be in. Let’s hope that we are right.