|Who:||Minnesota Golden Gophers (17-13, 6-11)|
|When:||Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET|
|Vegas Line:||MINN -8|
|Enemy Blog:||The Daily Gopher|
The upset-minded Nittany Lions "played well for 30 minutes" as head coach Pat Chambers said after the 77-67 loss to Ohio State on Wednesday night. As much as I remember how great Penn State played when these two met back on Jan. 28, it's going to take a lot more this time around to knock off the Gophers again.
After losing five of their first six Big Ten road games by single digits, Penn State has dropped the last two road games by an average of 20.5 points. The 20 point loss to Ohio State loss wasn't that much of a shock, but the 21-point drubbing at Northwestern still doesn't sit well. I know we've all tried to forget a game that D.J. Newbill only scored three points in, but this is going to be a much tougher, more defensive-oriented team in a much more hostile environment. You have to wonder how much this Penn State team will have left in the tank after it seemed they gave everything that had to try and outlast a very athletic Ohio State team earlier in the week in a very emotional game.
Scouting The Opposition
Minnesota has a group of seniors similar to Penn State that will want to go out on a positive for what has been a tough run. Senior Andre Hollins leads the Gophers in scoring averaging 14.7 points and is second in rebounding with 4.0 boards per game. Big man Maurice Walker has gone through one of the most transformative careers in the country. Walker's weighed around 350 pounds when he initially started out with the Gophers and is now one of the more productive big men in the Big Ten. Walker's 11.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game will be a load for the Penn State frontline to handle.
What To Watch For
Minnesota leads the Big Ten and is third in the country in steals per game with 10.0 per game. The top three in individual steals per game in the Big Ten just so happen to be on the Minnesota bench as well (DeAndre Mathieu, Carols Morris and Nate Mason). For a team like Penn State that doesn't have that much success in transitional scoring, they are playing right into the hands of the Minnesota defense. The team that can control the turnover battle may be an indication of who comes out on top.
I hate to use this term because I would hate for it to be true about student-athletes that have endured a tough year, but it looked like this Penn State team quit the last time out on the road in Northwestern. The way they rallied on Senior Night and showed some life for the first half would prove me wrong, but after all the momentum was sucked out of that team by the late D'Angelo Russell led run, I don't know how many more punches this team can take. A guy like Ross Travis, a Minnesota native, will go out and certainly leave it all out on the floor, but it's so hard to go into 'The Barn' and win. Maybe this team has one thriller in them before the Big Ten Tournament starts on Wednesday, but I don't see it: Minnesota 72, Penn State 56.