Minnesota (15-2, 3-1) at Michigan State (11-6, 3-1)
When: Wednesday, January 11th 2016
Where: Breslin Events Center, East Lansing, MI
Time: 7:00 ET | TV: Big Ten Network
The Minnesota Golden Gophers and Michigan State Spartans will meet for the second time this season when they battle in East Lansing, Michigan on Wednesday night. The Spartans got the better of Minnesota in the Big Ten opener for both teams on December 27th with an overtime victory, 75-74. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo didn’t have standout freshman Miles Bridges (14.3 points, 8.2 rebounds) for the first meeting, and the forward is still working his way back to 100 percent after missing seven games with an injury. Fellow freshman Nick Ward (13.8 points) scored 22 against the Gophers, and is the only consistent low-post threat on a Michigan State team that ranks 216th in scoring (72.7). Tum Tum Nairn moved out of the starting lineup in favor of freshman point guard Cassius Winston the past five games, but that has seemed to only fuel his offensive productivity. Nairn averages 4.4 points, but scored 13 against Minnesota and matched that total in a loss to Penn State over the weekend, two of his three double-figure scoring games this season. Winston leads the Big Ten and is 20th nationally with 5.9 assists per game. Michigan State is tied with Minnesota and three others atop the Big Ten.
The Gophers blew a 13-point halftime lead in that December meeting with Michigan State, but haven’t lost since, beating both Purdue and Northwestern on the road and Ohio State at home. The two road wins were the first back-to-back wins away from home for the Golden Gophers since 2011-12. Guard Nate Mason leads the team, averaging 14.5 points and 5.7 assists, and beat the Spartans for a team-high 18 points in last month’s contest. Reggie Lynch had three points and three rebounds in 11 minutes of action before fouling out against Michigan State in December, but has been much better lately, averaging 10.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.0 blocks during Minnesota’s three-game winning streak. Lynch is looking forward to another shot at Ward, after he burned him for 22 points last time. Minnesota allows opponents to connect on just 38.1% of their field-goal attempts, ranking first in the Big Ten and 12th nationally entering Tuesday’s action. Minnesota will be at Penn State on Saturday.
The Gophers have been playing better all-around ball than Michigan State has this year and they seem to know how to win on the road now. I can see a very close game throughout, so I’ll take the points.
Pick: Minnesota +4.5