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College Hoops Pick
It may not seem like it because both teams are in good situations to make the NCAA tourney, but this is a pretty big game. Neither one has been playing particularly well which makes getting back on the right track very important, especially late in the season.
Ohio State has lost three of their last four games and was just embarrassed at Wisconsin by 22 points. While none of the Buckeyes losses were surprising, it was the way they lost them that has people wondering. At home against Indiana, they never looked like a team that could win. Even against Northwestern, they needed a late run to overtake the Wildcats in Columbus. Ohio State has two home games this week and needs at least one win while they are hoping for two. They get Michigan State on Sunday.
Minnesota is in the same vein, only a little worse. They are no longer ranked and for good reason. The Gophers have also lost three of their last four, but going further seven of their last 10 and have a losing conference record at 6-7. Last Sunday, they were dismantled by Iowa even after managing a 16-point lead in the first half. Their biggest win during this past stretch was against Wisconsin and they needed overtime to do that at home. Since their road win at Illinois, the Gophers haven't really done anything that impressive and now find themselves at Ohio State and home to Indiana in their next two games. They could easily be 6-9 in the Big 10.
If Minnesota wants to win, they'll need to find some kind of consistency on offense. The most they've scored in their past four games is 58 points and that was in overtime. Sure, they can play defense, but where does that get you when your defense starts to fail you and your offense can't pick it up?
Rodney Williams, their second leading scorer is dealing with a shoulder problem and didn't even score against the Hawkeyes. From there, Andre and Austin Hollins are their next best scorers. Andre hasn't shot better than 36 percent in five straight games and only had three points against Iowa. Austin is more consistent, but he doesn't have the ability to lead his team when everyone else is struggling. Big man Trevor Mbakwe is great on the defensive end and averages close to 10 points per game, but again, he's not going to take over a game anytime soon.
One player that will take over a game is Deshaun Thomas of Ohio State. Without Thomas, the Buckeyes offense would be very much like the Gophers, inconsistent in all the tough games. Even against Wisconsin, Thomas had a solid 18 points while no one else really helped out. He will be good for another 20 points in this game, but where will his help come from? Aaron Craft is known for his defense and only has 11 points in the last two games. They have guys that can explode like Lenzelle Smith Jr. and LaQuinton Ross, but they aren't consistent. The two combined for only nine points against the Badgers.
After reading all of this, you can see that this game will be very defensive with a lot of questionable offense. The Buckeyes clearly have the edge being at home and with Thomas on their side. If the Gophers can't get their offense going again, this may be another ugly game. However, there's always the chance they pick up the intensity in what will be their last road game against a top squad.
Prediction - Ohio State 62 Minnesota 60
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