Minnesota and Michigan tangle in Big Ten TournamentMar 9, 2012 - 4:19 PM Indianapolis, IN (Sports Network) - Fresh off a first-round upset over Northwestern, the 10th-seeded Minnesota Golden Gophers will try to do the same against the second-seeded Michigan Wolverines in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Conference Tournament.
Minnesota took down Northwestern in overtime, 75-68, which put a serious damper on the Wildcats' NCAA Tournament aspirations. The win moved the Golden Gophers to 19-13 overall, though their resume' most likely still isn't good enough for NCAA Tournament recognition due to a poor 6-12 conference record. A win tonight however, could give UM the extra push it would need for consideration.
Michigan really came on at the end of the regular season, winning six of its last seven games to bring its overall record to 23-8 and making claim to the No. 10 ranking nationally. The Wolverines also finished with a 13-5 conference record, tying them with Ohio State and Michigan State for first place, earning a share of its first Big Ten regular-season championship in 26 years.
The Wolverines lead the all-time series with Minnesota, 79-59. Michigan won the only meeting between the squads this season on New Year's Day in Ann Arbor, though only by a five-point margin (61-56).
Minnesota was able to force overtime in Thursday's game with an Andre Hollins game-tying layup in the final minute of regulation. It then went on to outscore Northwestern 14-7 in the extra frame to pull off the upset. Hollins tallied a career-high 25 points for the Gophers, while his brother Austin and Rodney Williams added 12 points apiece. UM is able to hold its own in a stacked Big Ten, ranking fifth in field goal percentage (.460) and fourth in field goal percentage defense (.412). It doesn't have much star power, but it gets steady contributions from the likes of Williams (10.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.5 bpg) and Julian Welch (10.2 ppg, 3.1 apg), as well as five other players who average at least 5.4 ppg. The Gophers will need to keep their giveaways in check if they have any shot at another upset, as they rank last in the conference in turnover margin (-1.10).
Michigan is led by an impressive trio of players who earned All-Big Ten honors. Trey Burke was honored as Big Ten Freshman of the Year as well as a member of the Second Team by leading the team in both scoring (14.6 ppg) and assists (4.6 apg). Tim Hardaway Jr. was named to the Third Team by posting 14.5 ppg and a countless number of clutch moments on the campaign, while Zack Novak chipped in 9.5 ppg and 4.6 rpg as a member Honorable Mention squad. While the Wolverines had a modest offense at best (66.7 ppg), they were aided by draining 257 three-pointers on the season, second only to Northwestern in the conference. They also have a stellar defense, giving up just 60.6 ppg on a lowly 42.2 percent field goal shooting.
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