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With how stacked the Big 10 is in basketball this year, there is going to be multiple big games every week. At the moment, they have six teams ranked in the Top 25 and another team in Wisconsin who will probably join the party after their most recent win at Indiana. This game features two teams ranked in the Top 10 who are both 3-1 in conference play.
Michigan was the last undefeated team in the nation until they lost at Ohio State last Sunday. Their 16-0 record matched their best start in school history with the1985-86 season. A lot of people have doubted the Wolverines in the early season mainly because of their schedule. However, they had three straight wins against Pittsburgh, Kansas State and NC State back in November.
Still, ranking systems such as ESPN's BPI has Michigan at No. 9 while the Golden Gophers are No. 6. Those ranking are flip-flopped in the AP Poll.
Minnesota has basically come out of nowhere this year after losing in last year's NIT Championship. The return of sixth-year big man Trevor Mbakwe has been a big part of the turnaround. Mbakwe is one of the best offensive rebounders in the game which goes hand-in-hand with the Gophers being able to grab 48% of their missed shots this season, the highest percentage in the country.
They have lost their last 12 home games against Top 5 ranked opponents, but this may be the game to break the streak. Their only two losses this season have come against Top 5 schools away from home. Early Big 10 wins over Michigan State and at Illinois have shown that they can play with the big boys this year.
The Wolverines have beaten Minnesota three straight times and five of the last six meetings in Minneapolis. But again, this Golden Gophers team is one of the best we've seen from them in recent years. Not only are they good on the glass, but they also force the most turnovers per possession in the Big 10.
On the other end of that, Michigan doesn't make many mistakes. They are second in the nation grabbing 75.8% of available defensive rebounds and tops in the country scoring 1.23 points per possession. Their efficiency has led them to a Top 5 ranking since the start of the year.
Trey Burke is at the head of the Wolverines and in the discussion for the John Wooden Award (best player in the country). For a point guard, he has been extremely efficient. While he leads Michigan in scoring at 18 points per game, he also dishes out over seven assists per game. Not only that but he's shooting 52 percent from the field. You normally don't see that kind of percentage from a guard.
His teammates have made it easy for him. Tim Hardaway Jr. is having his best season to date scoring 16 per game. The freshman trio of Nik Stauskas, Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III are probably the biggest reason for their success. Stauskas is hitting 2.7 threes per game at a rate better than 50 percent, Robinson is a solid scoring forward and McGary is a beast down low. Jordan Morgan isn't as flashy as those other guys, but he's a large part of their system as he's been playing in it for three years now.
Minnesota has come under the radar mainly because they have much of the same team as last year. They don't have the huge freshman class as Michigan, but instead have a stable of experienced players. After three years on subpar teams, senior Rodney Williams finally has a solid team around him. He's actually playing three minutes less per game than last year, but scoring more at 12.5 PPG. Andre Hollins has been big for the Gophers in his second year as he's their leading scorer with 14.4 points per game. Austin Hollins, Joe Coleman and Mbakwe round out the rest of the starters. Minnesota has a very balanced team with five guys scoring at least 9.5 per game and none of them averaging more than 29 minutes per game.
This will be the Wolverines second straight Big 10 road test and a telling game of just how good they can be this year. As for the Golden Gophers, we'll find out if they are for real or not. Our score prediction model says Minnesota on top by a score of 73-64 For information on getting our predicted scores for every game on the board click here
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