Unless you have been living in a cave you know this is obviously not a serious post....but just roll with it K?
Has this been the wildest four days of Gopher basketball? After an innocuous victory over Northwestern the Gophers snuck by Iowa, cruised by Illinois and then used a late second-half comeback to surprise Wisconsin and find themselves in the conference championship. Talk about a wild ride.
The turnaround for the team has been stark. Late in the season they gave up SO many second half leads and didn’t seem capable of finishing close games off. I’m not sure what switch has flipped but all of a sudden the team is buckling down at the end, making plays, hitting shots and being smart. The maturity level is through the roof in the last week.
It’s not completely surprising, if you think about it. There are veteran players on this team with a ton of talent who just weren’t able to put it together consistently during the regular season. We always said they were capable of beating any team on any given night, and they are starting to prove that out.
But the Gophers aren’t there yet. They dug themselves a deep enough hole at the end of the year that they almost certainly need to win the Big Ten Tournament outright to nab a spot in the NCAA Tournament. And their reward for making it this far? A date with the Michigan State Spartans. A team they’ve had tremendous trouble with this season and in previous years.
Michigan State Spartans (16-6, 24-9)
Date and Time:
Sunday, March 15 @ 2 p.m. CT
Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Indianapolis, IN)
Tell me more about the opponent.
Michigan State has had an easy run through the Big Ten Tournament to this point, having put away Ohio State on Friday by 9 points and running Maryland out of the gym yesterday in a 13-point blowout of the Terps. Needless to say, they are coming into this game much fresher than Minnesota, who is on it’s fifth straight game and who, by now, probably have legs of jelly.
The Spartans are a very good team and are on a seven-game winning streak dating back to Feb. 20. All-world PG Cassius Winston is averaging more than 18 points per game, Xavier Tillman is averaging a double-double, and Aaron Henry is pouring in 10 points per game. They are a deep team
As usual, Tom Izzo has his guys playing super well at the end of the season. 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.
They’re not invincible.
The Gophers got ran out of the gym in both contests this year, but are playing out of their minds in the past week. Can they carry it through one more game against one of the best teams in the country? Five games in five days is a ridiculous ask, but crazier things have happened.
I can’t do it, though. Spartans by 7 in a heartbreaker.