The Gophers picked up a huge road win against Ohio State on Thursday, upsetting the Buckeyes thanks to a dramatic late-game three pointer from Marcus Carr, who put D.J. Carton on skates and unloaded a beautiful off-balance shot that secured the victory.
In a season where visiting teams are having an extremely difficult time picking up victories in conference play, taking down the Buckeyes for the second time this season was a gift for the Gophers, who are looking for any Big Ten victory they can get. It was their first win in Columbus since 2005 and gave them another Quad 1 win for their tournament resume.
It was also the first true road win for the team this season, which hopefully breaks that seal in a big way. The Gophers effectively need to pick up five more conference wins to get to nice round number of 10 that should get them into the tournament with no questions asked. But scenarios where those wins are even semi-likely are few and far between. One game against each of Nebraska and Northwestern remains, but beyond that it’s a crapshoot. If the Gophers take care of business at home, where they have six games remaining, and they’re in. It’s that simple.
Things get immediately complicated on Sunday, where they have the privilege of hosting the #11 Michigan State Spartans, who dominated the Gophers 74-58 in their first meeting but have now dropped two of three, both of which were away from East Lansing. Interesting.
Michigan State Spartans (6-2, 14-5)
Date and Time:
Sunday, Jan. 26 @ 2 p.m. CT
Tell me more about the opponent.
When we last saw Michigan State they were busy destroying the Gophers in a game that was never really close. Cassius Winston and Xavier Tillman were unstoppable. Marcus Carr was pedestrian. Gabe Kalscheur was invisible. It wasn’t a good time and showed the gulf between the two teams. At the time it was the eighth straight win for the Spartans, who were absolutely on fire. For the Gophers, it was a dose of cold water after nearly escaping with a road victory over Purdue just two games before.
Since then? Michigan State lost by an astounding 29 points on the road to Purdue, beat Wisconsin at home by 12 and lost a heartbreaker on the road to Indiana. The Gophers are winners of three of four, including a road win over Ohio State. Have the tables turned a bit?
Michigan State is still an all-country team. They’re veteran-led, they’re extremely disciplined, they’re fundamentally sound. They’re near the top of the conference in terms of scoring margin, field goal percentage, defense, rebounding margin, blocks, and assist-to-turnover ratio. They’re good. But they’re beatable when they’re visiting, and that’s been evident the past few games. No team is immune to being on the road this year in the Big Ten; not even Michigan State.
Cassius Winston is third in the league in scoring, Xavier Tillman is third in rebounding. But the Gophers also have Carr and Oturu. It’s going to be a battle.
Dare we be optimistic? It’s another weekend matinee game, and we know how the Gophers perform in those. Still, given the circumstances, there may be no better time to take on the Spartans than right now. Tom Izzo, in preparation for March, did not return to East Lansing after the Indiana loss, choosing instead to keep the team on the road. Minnesota is feeling good these days and returns home to a friendly crowd. Michigan State is in the opposite position.
I’m taking the Gophers by two.