Time to Fade Minnesota, Starting Wednesday at Northwestern

Matthew Jordan

Tuesday, January 9, 2018 7:29 PM UTC

Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018 7:29 PM UTC

It’s two NCAA Tournament teams from last year currently on the bubble when Minnesota visits Northwestern on Wednesday night (9 ET) on the Big Ten Network.

Minnesota Golden Gophers at Northwestern WildcatsFree NCAAB Pick: NUBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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It's a 9 p.m. ET tipoff Wednesday from the Chicago suburbs for this matchup on the Big Ten Network.

Now that the college football season has come to a close, it’s time to start thinking about March Madness. Both Minnesota and Northwestern likely would not get at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament as things stand.

Last year under coach Richard Pitino, son of a certain disgraced former Louisville coach, Minnesota reached the Big Dance for the first time since 2013. However, the Gophers were upset 81-72 in the first round by No. 12 Middle Tennessee. Minnesota hasn’t made back-to-back trips since 2009-10. As of this writing, the school has an RPI rating of 74, which surely isn’t going to cut it. Nine of the Gophers’ wins have come against teams with an RPI of 150 or higher. They are 2-3 against the RPI Top 100.

Northwestern was the only Power 5 Conference school to never make the NCAA Tournament until Chris Collins’ club did so last March. The Cats edged No. 9 Vanderbilt in a first-round thriller and lost to West Region top-seeded Gonzaga by just six in the second round. However, NU has struggled this season and sits with an RPI of 98. The Wildcats are an ugly 0-6 against the RPI Top 100 and have six wins against teams at 150 or worse.

Big Ten teams don’t play every other opponent twice or there would be 26 conference games. Northwestern faced Minnesota once last year and lost at home, 70-66. Amir Coffey scored 17 points, and Nate Mason hit eight free throws in the final 26 seconds for the Gophers. Bryant McIntosh scored 21 and had five assists for the Wildcats, who were just 6-for-26 from long range.

These schools will play again in Minneapolis on Jan. 23. NU has covered five of the past seven meetings overall.

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Minnesota Missing 2 Key Players

So why do I recommend fading the Gophers (13-4 SU, 2-2 Big Ten, 8-8 ATS) for a while? Two of their best players are out. One is senior forward Reggie Lynch, last year’s Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year who was averaging 10.1 points and 8.0 rebounds this season. Last week, he was suspended indefinitely amid a sexual assault probe. A woman has alleged that the Gophers center assaulted her on April 28, 2016, in his dorm room.

Lynch has appealed a finding that recommended he be banned from campus until August 2020 and somehow is still a member of the team. He’s just not playing. Lynch set the single-season record at Minnesota in 2016-17 with 114 blocks. Coffey is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury suffered in a 77-67 win over Illinois last Wednesday. He is averaging 14.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists.

To no surprise without those two, the Gophers lost at home to a mediocre Indiana team on Saturday, 75-71. The Gophers allowed 17 offensive rebounds, the most they have all season, without Lynch. Sophomore Michael Hurt started in Coffey’s place and didn’t score any points in 31 minutes of action. One bright spot was Jordan Murphy scoring 18 points to go with 10 rebounds to extend the nation's longest double-double streak to 17 games. Murphy leads the Big Ten with averages of 18.9 points and 12.7 rebounds per game.

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17 double-doubles in a row? Murph is on a roll. 👌 pic.twitter.com/AOEpF55x5X

— Minnesota MBB (@GopherMBB) January 9, 2018

I should mention that Northwestern (10-7 SU, 1-3 Big Ten, 5-9 ATS), which opened the season ranked 19th in the AP poll, technically has no true home games this season. The Cats are playing all home games at Allstate Arena in Rosemont because the on-campus Welsh-Ryan Arena is being renovated and won’t be done until this fall. NU enters on a two-game losing streak. It was beaten 78-63 at Penn State last Friday. Bryant McIntosh returned to the lineup from a one-game injury absence and led the Wildcats with 18 points. However, the team’s other star, Scottie Lindsey, was just 3-for-17 from the field for nine points.

The Wildcats’ biggest problem this year has been defensively. They ranked 32nd in adjusted defensive efficiency in 2016-17 at 95.5 points allowed per 100 possessions and are currently 101st at KenPom.com with a rating of 100.2 points per 100 possessions.

NU has covered seven of its past nine following a loss and will do so here on the NCAAB picks against the short-handed Gophers.

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