2/6/2013 at 7PM on Big Ten Network
Ah. Sweet revenge. That’s the payoff awaiting the Spartans if they can log this one into the win column. I thought Minnesota was overrated at the beginning of conference play, and maybe the Spartans did as well when they played them in the first game and came up empty. Of course, at the time MSU was even more turnover prone and less consistent than they are currently and players like Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne hadn’t yet found their groove. Add to that the fact that Minnesota hit every contested leaner and off-balance prayer in that first game and the recipe was complete for a 76-63 road loss. The Spartans have made adjustments and grown since that time, while I feel that Minnesota has merely stood pat. With luck, they won’t have to call in this guy to get the job done..
Watch this video on YouTube.
The Gophers beat the Spartans on the glass in the first game to the tune of 38-24, with 12 of those yanked down by Trevor Mbakwe. Along with fellow senior Rodney Williams, Minnesota really had their way inside and earned their team far too many second chance opportunities. The pair of guards named Hollins also had productive days, particularly Andre, who dropped 22 points on MSU. The Gophers put forth a great effort and as much as I hate to admit it they outworked the Spartans and did all the little things well on the way to victory. While it is true that it seemed as though none of the contested shots caromed away harmlessly, Minnesota certainly did earn much of their “luck” with some inspired play. I expect them to be tough inside once again and have largely the same game plan since it worked out well for them in the first meeting.
Coach Izzo was not shy about calling out his team’s efforts on the glass in this article and rightly so. While the team has not been terrible it has not lived up to the high standards set forth and must improve. Izzo has always prided himself on having teams that will at the very least outwork anyone they face. His teams are about defense, about rebounding, and it was good to see him give them a reminder. That said, my major concern going into this one is the availability of Gary Harris. Reports are that he will be ready to go, but I have to question how many minutes he will be able to give if his back is still ailing him. Coupled with the definite loss of Travis Trice for this game(at least I have not read anything that has said he would be cleared following his concussion)the Spartans may find themselves terribly thin at guard against a team that is talented at that position. I’ve been a fan of Denzel Valentine and remain so but I’m not sure he can be counted on for production such as he gave versus Illinois(14 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists)on a regular basis just yet. With regard to the frontcourt, Payne has proven to be ready for any challenge thus far and while Nix has at times disappeared I believe he will be up for this game and ready to do battle in the trenches.
All in all, if the Spartans had all of their weapons available I would say this one could be won by a comfortable margin. Since it would appear as though a few guys will have to log more minutes than they are accustomed to, I am slightly less optimistic. Don’t be crazy—of course I am picking MSU to win. Keith Appling is still playing, right?
Clutch Appling (Getty Images)
Prediction: MSU 68, MIN 63