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11/15 Big Ten Preview: Gophers and Utes

Preview the Big Ten’s action on Friday night.

NCAA Basketball: Minnesota at Butler Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

The Gavitt Games are over, and it’s back to the dregs of November basketball. Fortunately, there’s one good game on tonight, so for you degenerates out there who stay in on Friday nights watching Big Ten basketball, you have a plausible excuse to avoid going out.

Game of the Night:

-Minnesota Golden Gophers at Utah Utes

  • Time/TV: 9:00 PM EST, Pac-12 Network
  • KenPom Spread: Utah -1

The Gophers are in the middle of a tough two-game road trip, a trip which I give head man Richard Pitino a pat on the back for scheduling. Minnesota hasn’t been known as a program that goes out and schedules aggressively, and while Tuesday’s game against Butler was part of the Gavitt Games, there’s no reason the Gophers had to follow it up with a trip to Salt Lake City, but they did.

The Gophers have not been the Gabe Kalscheur Show like everyone expected. Both Marcus Carr and Payton Willis have logged more minutes, and Willis has both taken more threes and hit a higher percentage than Kalscheur, who through three games has an offensive rating in the 80s. That’s going to have to improve if the Gophers want to stay in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten and not fall down into the basement.

As for the Utes, youth is the word of the day. The other Coach K starts three sophomores and two freshmen. The team has a nice road win at Nevada to its credit, as well as a record-setting 94—yes, NINETY-freaking-FOUR—point victory over Mississippi Valley State.

  • Pick against the spread: Minnesota

The Rest:

-South Dakota State Jackrabbits at Nebraska Cornhuskers

  • Time/TV: 9:00 PM EST, BTN
  • KenPom Spread: Nebraska -8

Hoiberg needs a win. After an 0-2 home start against UC-Riverside and Southern Utah, there’s very little hope in Lincoln that this year will be anything but a total down-to-the-nubs rebuild. The fans are known for packing Pinnacle Bank Arena no matter what, but you have to think attendance for this one might suffer a little bit.

Between the poor start for Nebraska, the ineptitude that SDSU has shown under first-year coach Eric Henderson, and the late tipoff time, this might be the No. 1 question-your-life-choices-if-you-watch-this-game game of the season this year.

But some of you Iowa fans are going to watch hoping Hoiberg goes 0-3.

  • Pick against the spread: South Dakota State

-Elon Phoenix at Michigan Wolverines

  • Time/TV: 7:00 PM EST, BTN
  • KenPom Spread: Michigan -28

Through three games, Elon is the worst-shooting team in the country. This will be a feel-good win for the Wolverines, who are fresh off a nice win against Creighton and who won’t face a real test until the day before Thanksgiving when they face Iowa State.

  • Pick against the spread: Michigan

-Oral Roberts Golden Eagles at Iowa Hawkeyes

  • Time/TV: 8:00 PM EST, None
  • KenPom Spread: Iowa -15

Thank God for Nebraska, or that DePaul game might just be the worst L that the conference has taken all season. To lose is one thing, but to lose at home, and by fifteen, ouch. Iowa is hoping to get back on track again Oral Roberts.

The story for Iowa is a familiar one. The offense is pretty decent—although Jordan Bohannon is still admittedly not his old self, every player who plays over half of available minutes except Joe Wieskamp has an offensive rating over 100. No, the issue, as so often with Fran, is the defense. The D-I average effective field goal percentage is 48.8%. Iowa’s opponents are shooting 57.6%. Yeesh.

The good news is that Oral Roberts hasn’t been particularly effective at finding the basket. The bad news is that the Eagles are very comfortable playing fast, as they nearly beat Oklahoma State in a 5-point road game that was 88 possessions. Iowa’s style plays right into their hands. I won’t go so far as to predict a Hawkeye loss, but I do predict that those Hawkeye fans who are at Carver-Hawkeye Arena will leave this game feeling worse about themselves. Thank God this one isn’t on TV.

  • Pick against the spread: Oral Roberts