Gophers Can Beat Spartans and Gabe Kalscheur Will Be the Key on Both Ends

Minnesota’s Gabe Kalscheur (22) plays air guitar after scoring a basket against Louisville during the second half of a first round men’s college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, in Des Moines, Iowa, Thursday, March 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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First, let’s get this out of the way. I’m not going to sit here and complain about the terrible job that the NCAA Tournament committee did on seeding the Big Ten teams in this tournament. As I type, the Maryland Terrapins are in a barn burner with LSU (they ended up losing on a buzzer-beater). If they win, they will be playing another Big Ten team next round in either Michigan State or Minnesota… for those two teams, it’d be the 2nd straight Big Ten team they would face (out of 3 tourney games)… That’s without even mentioning the 6 of 7 wins the Big Ten pulled out of the first round of games… but I’m not going to complain about any of that.

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What I am going to do, is hype up my Minnesota Gophers. We are 5 hours from tip and I spent 3 of my hours this morning making the trip from Eagan to Little Falls to hang out with family during the game (and I needed someone to watch my kid). In between pull-over stops with my son, I was able to convince myself that the Golden Gophers have a real chance of winning this game tonight vs Michigan State.

First, we need to remember that this isn’t the same Gopher team we saw for a lot of the season. Since losing to Rutgers in late-February, the Gophers have gone 5-2 with wins vs a tier-1 Penn State team, 2 wins over a top-15 Purdue team, and an NCAA Tournament win over Louisville.

Michigan State is going through a lot of controversy right now, after an overblown sideline tirade by Tom Izzo, and didn’t play well in round one. The Gophers on the other hand, are playing the best basketball of their season, by far.

The key to this game might again be Gabe Kalscheur. If the Gophers hit 10+ threes like they did in round 1 (11), it’s going to be tough to beat us. Our defense is just too good. If we are going to rain those tre’s then we all know most will have to come from the sharp-shooting Freshman.

But, he will have to bring that offensive game while playing an even more important role defensively. Stopping Cassius Winston will be priority number one for Pitino’s squad on defense. I’d imagine Gabe will be the guy tasked with stopping him. If Kalscheur can contain Winston and still bring a top-3 scoring role on offense, we will be Sweet 16-bound…

I’m starting to sweat.

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Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan

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