The No. 7 Michigan Wolverines will travel to Minneapolis to face off against the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Thursday after a victory over Maryland.
The Wolverines are seeking their second win versus the Golden Gophers this season. Michigan’s Charles Matthews hit a game-winner to edge out a two-point victory in the previous matchup. Here is a preview, and a prediction for this battle between these two teams.
What: No. 7 Michigan (23-3, 12-3) vs. Minnesota (17-9, 7-8)
When: Thursday, February 21, 7:00 PM on ESPN
Where: Williams Arena; Minneapolis, MN
Keys to Victory for Michigan
The Wolverines have the second-best defensive efficiency rating according to Ken Pom. Michigan’s opponents are scoring 57.6 points-per-game which is the best in the Big Ten and third lowest in the country.
In the last contest between these two teams, Zavier Simpson did not record a single assist. Since then, he has dished 48 assists, or 6.8 assists-per-game, over his last seven games, including a career-best 12 against Ohio State. It is unlikely that Simpson will tally zero-assists, so that will prevent a potential Minnesota comeback.
Scoring off turnovers is one of the ways opposing teams can counter Michigan’s top-notch defense. Therefore, limiting turnovers will secure a Michigan victory.
On the offensive side, Jordan Poole and Charles Matthews need to continue being the spark for Michigan. Ingas “Iggy” Brazdeikis will also be a significant factor in this matchup. These three Wolverines will absorb the offensive workload and will each score around 15-points to guarantee a Michigan win.
Keys to Victory for Minnesota
Scoring off turnovers is helpful for the Golden Gophers because it enables them to rack up points before the Wolverines can set up their defensive schemes. Moving on, Minnesota’s standout player is Amir Coffey, who is averaging 15.3 points-per-game this season.
A crucial way for the Golden Gophers to counter the Michigan defense is by having Coffey score well over his season average. He will most likely need to drop at least 20-points.
Additionally, Isaiah Washington is managing Minnesota in assists, with 3.2 assists-per-game. Thus, he must find his teammates and warm them up, so they can have a tremendous impact on the game.
Therefore, Minnesota’s fate lies in the hands of Amir Coffey and Isaiah Washington. Paired with solid defense from their team, these two can then focus on scoring and passing to give the Golden Gophers a chance at pulling off an upset.
All in all, everything must be perfect for Minnesota to win. Amir Coffey needs to have a career night against a top defense. Also, Minnesota’s home court advantage will disturb the Wolverines as they are not known to perform at their best on the road (Ex. at Penn State).
In the end, the Golden Gophers will stay close with the Wolverines for around 33 minutes. Then, because John Beilein faced this Minnesota team earlier in the season, he will make the correct adjustments for the Maize and Blue to leave Minneanapolis victorious.
Final Score: Michigan 68 – Minnesota 57
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