Unless you have been living in a cave you know this is obviously not a serious post....but just roll with it K?
The Gophers are back in the NCAA Tournament and just by the skin of their teeth. One year after rolling in as a 10-seed and pulling a minor upset over then-7 seed Louisville, Minnesota has reversed its late-season fortunes and now sits in the field of 64 two days after defeating Texas in the play-in game. Now they are looking to pull a true upset.
It’s been a long, winding road to get to this point for Minnesota, who was left for dead before the Big Ten Tournament started before embarking on an epic run. Now they are one of the trendiest 12-over-5 upset picks in the country as they face an Auburn Tigers team that has had something of a late season swoon.
For Richard Pitino, it’s a potential redemption opportunity, as his 2017 Gophers were upset as a 5-seed by the 12th-seeded Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders. Not only is it time to return the favor, it’s time for Minnesota to beat Auburn for the second time in three months.
Auburn Tigers (26-7)
Date and Time:
Thursday, March 19 @ 6:05 p.m. CT
Greensboro Coliseum (Greensboro, NC)
Tell me more about the opponent.
Bruce Pearl and his Auburn Tigers have a gaudy record thanks to a 15-0 start to the season, though they got pretty fat on some low-majors early on. In SEC play they went 12-6 in the regular season, starting out 9-2 before ending the season on a bit of a skid, and losing four of their last seven games, which included some of the conference’s lowliest teams. They beat Texas A&M in the SEC conference tournament before falling to LSU in the semifinals. Still, the Tigers are ranked #20 in the country and are hardly pushovers.
Senior guard Samir Doughty leads the way, averaging 16.7 points per game. Doughty was named first team All-SEC last week and can light up the scoreboard. He’s had a big second half, scoring less than 14 points just once and has six games of 20 or more points.
Freshman forward Isaac Okoro has been fantastic down low, being named second-team All-SEC and named to the SEC All-Freshman and All-Defensive teams in his first year. He’s averaging 13 points per game and his 51.4 field goal percentage is ranked inside the top 15 nationally among freshmen.
J’Von McCormick (11.6 ppg) and Austin Wiley (10.6 ppg) round out the double-digit scorers, while Wiley is adding in more than 9 rebounds per game and adding 1.6 blocks.
Auburn is a physical team. They do a great job on the offensive glass and do a great job at getting to the free throw line. However, they are not a great three-point or free-throw shooting team, preferring to do their damage inside. If Daniel Oturu can remain a force down low and Gabe Kalscheur can lock down Doughty the Gophers have a real chance.
Marcus Carr was able to catch a few minutes on the bench on Tuesday thanks to a relatively smooth win over Texas, but this is now Minnesota’s seventh game in nine days, which is completely ridiculous. Still, they match-up well with Auburn, who is a simply an adequate defensive team. If Daniel Oturu can remain a force down low and Gabe Kalscheur can lock down Doughty the Gophers have a real chance.
Vegas and KenPom both like the Gophers by two points. I do too.