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12/05 Big Ten Preview: Jordan Murphy and the Gophers Look to Stay Hot in Nebraska

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BTP previews the Big Ten’s Tuesday games.

NCAA Basketball: Miami at Minnesota Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Each Big Ten team has played at least one conference game while the majority of the conference has played two. On Tuesday, the four remaining teams to have only played a single Big Ten team will match up.

While it’s early in conference play and still tough to get a grasp on how things will turn out, having Big Ten play this early in December is a treat for everyone. Within the two games tomorrow, the conference’s top two highest ranked teams will be in action.

Let’s take a look at the pair of Big Ten games on Tuesday.

Game of the Day

-No. 14 Minnesota Golden Gophers at Nebraska Cornhuskers

  • Time/TV: 9:00 ET/BTN
  • KenPom Spread: Minnesota (-6.5)

The Golden Gophers are fresh off of a convincing 22-point victory over Rutgers at Williams Arena to begin conference play. Minnesota will now be tested on the road for the first time in its Big Ten schedule.

The 8-1 Golden Gophers have performed close to perfect through nine games this season. A competitive 86-81 defeat to no. 10 Miami is the only thing that hasn’t gone their way so far. Other than that, they’ve beat up on their competition for the most part and also picked up a quality 89-84 victory over no. 25 Alabama.

Offense has been the stronger side of the ball for Minnesota in the early going. The 89.4 points per game averaged by the Golden Gophers ranks 17th in the country. Minnesota has four players averaging in double figures and is shooting 49.1 percent from the floor as a team.

Jordan Murphy can be given the most credit for the offensive success. Murphy is shooting a lethal 57.9 percent from the floor and is averaging 21 points per game, the most in the Big Ten. Murphy is leading the conference in rebounding as well and has collected a double-double in all of Minnesota’s games this season.

Obviously it’s early, but if the season ended now, it would be hard to not award Murphy Big Ten POY. That’s how good he has been. Nebraska provides Murphy with a mouth-watering matchup as well. The Cornhuskers don’t have a player on their entire roster averaging even half the amount of rebounds that Murphy is grabbing each game.

Nebraska is coming off of an 86-57 loss against Michigan State in its first Big Ten game this season. MSU didn’t have very much trouble handling the Cornhuskers on the glass. If this is the case for Minnesota, Nebraska could be in danger of another tally in the loss column.

The Golden Gophers’ high-powered offense also arises problems for the Cornhuskers. Nebraska has struggled to score consistently this season and now will have to keep up with one of the best offensive teams in the Big Ten.

  • Pick Against KenPom Spread: Minnesota

The Rest

-No. 3 Michigan State Spartans at Rutgers Scarlet Knights

  • Time/TV: 7:00 ET/BTN
  • KenPom Spread: Michigan State (-14.5)

The Spartans have started to hit their stride and have looked better and better throughout their current six-game winning streak. After blowing out Nebraska at home, the only thing that could get in Michigan State’s way against Rutgers on the road is itself.

Miles Bridges is coming off of a 12-point, six-rebound performance against Nebraska. It’s only a matter of time until the big man starts really feeling it. But, even if he doesn’t against Nebraska, the Spartans should still be able to coast to an easy win. Of course, this is if Nick Ward and Cassius Winston keep doing their thing. There are no indicators that they won’t either. Ward just dropped 22 points against Nebraska on 6-7 shooting to lead all scorers while Winston scored 16.

Rutgers is an improved squad from last season and has seemed to turn a corner. While the Scarlet Knights have set themselves up nicely to win a few more games this season, it’s not to say they can hang with MSU.

Rutgers began the season 6-0 but didn’t defeat any team within those six games to turn any heads. Since they started playing against legitimate competition, the Scarlet Knights have gone 0-2. The five-point loss to Florida State in the Big Ten-Acc challenge was encouraging, but unfortunately MSU is on a completely different level than the Seminoles.

  • Pick Against KenPom Spread: Michigan State

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Season Record against the Spread: 4-3-1