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College Basketball Prediction
What's new? Here's another really big game in Big 10 play. After Wisconsin's 4-0 conference start, you wouldn't think they'd be in a must-win game just 10 days later, but this is close to one if they want any chance at staying near the top of the conference.
Every team knows it, if you want a chance to win the regular season conference title, you can't lose home games. Wisconsin did just that on Tuesday night losing to a feisty Michigan State squad that just wouldn't back down. The Badgers just couldn't find their shooting touch in that game, shooting less than 30% from the field and just 7-of-18 from the free throw line. When you make under 40 percent of your free throws, that's usually not a good sign. Those kinds of numbers won't win a lot of games and will definitely not beat Minnesota. Wisconsin may have beaten Illinois and Indiana early on, but the road ahead doesn't get prettier.
Minnesota hit a snag of their own losing three straight games. Sure, when you lose to what many consider two of the best teams in the nation, you can't really do anything about that, but a loss at Northwestern leaves some doubt in what the Golden Gophers can do. They still have nice wins over Michigan State and destroyed Illinois in Champaign. The winner of this game will stay in contention with the big boys, while the loser falls to three conference losses, alongside the likes of Purdue.
The Golden Gophers defense struggled against the Hoosiers and Wolverines, but that can be expected. Their offense is what had problems at Northwestern scoring only 48 points. Trevor Mbakwe was the only Gopher in double-digits in that game to go along with 16 boards. He has the athleticism and strength to deal with Wisconsin's leading scorer Jared Berggren. Wisconsin is known for their defense, but when faced with slashers they've had problems. They had trouble containing Keith Appling and Branden Dawson all Tuesday night. Andre and Austin Hollins are both great shooters, but can also drive the lane which can cause problems. Rodney Williams will likely matchup with Ryan Evans and there won't be any significant advantage there. Minnesota goes five-deep into their bench, but all five starters will get close to 30 minutes. Foul trouble hurt them against the Wildcats (mainly Austin Hollins) and could be a problem going forward.
Like every Wisconsin game, they live and die with their shot. They slow down the game on defense and wait for the open shot on offense. If Berggren is having a tough night scoring, he can also help set up plays in the post, most likely three-pointers. Ben Brust, Sam Dekker and Mike Bruesewitz are all confident in their long-range game and will the rock fly. The freshman Dekker got into early foul trouble against the Spartans and never really found his stroke again. After getting 10-plus points in three straight games, he only managed three points on Tuesday. Senior Ryan Evans is also another important player in this offense. He may not score a lot at 10.9 points per game, but if his shot is not falling, that takes away another dimension from this offense. He has a nice midrange game, but has only gone 4-for-19 in the last two games.
Wisconsin knows this is an important game and know they have to win. However, if they repeat their poor shooting performance from Tuesday night, the Golden Gophers will probably come out on top.
Predicted Score - Minn 63 Wisconsin 61
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