The 2020 edition of the Big Ten Tournament opens today when Minnesota takes on Northwestern at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. These two teams played twice during the regular season with Minnesota coming out on top in both contests.
On February 23 Minnesota went into Welsh-Ryan Arena and came away with an 83-57 dominating win. Earlier in the season, the first matchup between these two squads was closer at 77-68, but the final score was not indicative of how the game played out. Minnesota took control of the game about 12 minutes into the first half, after which, it was never in doubt.
The Gophers had a tough stretch to finish the season as they had to face Maryland at home followed by back-to-back road games at Wisconsin and Inidana, notoriously difficult places to play. All three games resulted in losses, however Minnesota was able to right the ship in their final regular season game. The Gophers hung 107 on Nebraska en route to a 32 point win. This dominating win may boost the Gophers confidence heading into tournament play.
Northwestern enters the tournament after finishing their regular season by losing 13 of their last 15 games. On the plus side, the Wildcats will be looking to ride the momentum created by their win against then 20th ranked Penn St. in their regular season finale on Saturday.
The Gophers are lead by a trio of sophomores, most notably Daniel Oturu. Rounding out the trio are guards Marcus Carr and Gabe Kalscheur. Oturu leads the way by averaging 20 points and 11.4 rebounds per game. Carr assumes the role of floor general, not just by scoring his average 15 points per game, but by dishing out 6.7 assists and tracking down 5.3 boards per game. Kalscheur compliments his teammates nicely by adding nearly 12 points of his own on average.
It’s clear to see that this team is multi-faceted. On paper they probably should have been better this season than their record indicated. At 14-16 on the season, the Gophers weren’t terrible, just young. The Big Ten is a grind especially when traveling half way across the country on a weekly basis. The Gophers are a dangerous team presently, but could be considerably more formidable in the coming years as their core becomes juniors and seniors.
Let’s be honest, Northwestern doesn’t have many redeeming qualities when it comes to the game of basketball. Let’s start with their shooting/scoring issues. As a team, the Wildcats are averaging just over 65 points per game while shooting 41% from the field, 31% from deep, and a less than stellar 73% from the free throw line.
Moving on to their schedule, things don’t get any better. Excluding the recent Penn St. win, the other seven of Northwestern’s eight wins have come against sub-par competition. For example, they beat Nebraska twice, SIU-Edwardsville and Norfolk State once each. Not exactly confidence inspiring.
In short, Northwestern has done nothing all season to validate having any faith in them. The Wildcats will have no answer for Oturu. Barring any foul trouble, Northwestern won’t be able to hold him below 20 and 10.
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Minnesota vs. Northwestern Betting Line & Pick
Sportsbooks have priced Minnesota as a fairly strong favorite. The line currently sits at -8 and the total is holding steady at 137.
There’s not much explanation needed for this game. With Marcus Carr running the show for the Gophers, Daniel Oturu is going to be free to have another monster game. Oturu scored 22 points, chased down 12 boards and added 3 blocks when these two teams met on February 23.
Northwestern will get dominated on the glass again, especially since they seem to be in the habit of giving up double-digit offensive rebounds. Second-chance points can turn a 6-point win to a 16-point win in a hurry.
Even though 8 points is a fairly large spread for a tournament game, lay the points with the Gophers. Northwestern just doesn’t have the horses to keep this one close.
Pick: Minnesota -8
*Odds provided by VegasInsider