Wisconsin vs. Minnesota prediction and game preview. The Badgers look to get back on the right track, while the Golden Gophers seek to extend their win streak to nine.
Wisconsin vs. Minnesota Game Preview
When: Sunday, March 5 – 6 p.m. ET
Where: Kohl Center, Madison, WI
TV Broadcast: BTN
It will be an emotional day for Greg Gard and the No. 22 Badgers (22-8, 11-6 Big Ten) when they square off against Minnesota on Sunday. Forwards Nigel Hayes and Vitto Brown as well as guards Bronson Koenig and Zak Showalter will be playing in their final regular-season home game at the Kohl Center. Wisconsin will also be trying to get back on the winning track, as it has lost five of its last six games, including blowing a nine-point lead to drop a 59-57 decision to Iowa on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Richard Pitino and the Gophers (23-7, 11-6) went through a five-game losing streak back in January before becoming one of the hotter teams in the country, so they certainly know what Gard and Co. are going through. The Gophers have won eight straight games, with their most recent victory being an 88-73 home decision over Nebraska on Thursday.
These teams met back on Jan. 21 in Minneapolis, when versatile Badgers sophomore big man Ethan Happ scored a career-high 28 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and dished out six assists to lead his team to a 78-76 overtime victory. Hayes added 21 points and Koenig hit two big 3-pointers in overtime.
Wisconsin Wins If …
… The Badgers simply get their best players to be at their best. At this time of year, it’s imperative. Wisconsin, even during its rough skid, has shown glimpses of good play. But it’s been quite some time since the Badgers have put together a full 40-minute effort. Hayes, Koenig and Happ need to meet or exceed their average point total to help claim the No. 2 seed and get a double bye in the Big Ten tournament, which begins on Wednesday in Washington D.C. A loss could propel the Badgers to tumble as low as the No. 6 seed. A lot can happen with seeding if the Badgers lose this one.
If this one ends up being a tight contest, the Badgers need to be able to close better than they did against the Hawkeyes this past Thursday. They missed key baskets and free throws down the stretch in the setback.
Minnesota Wins If …
… The Gophers continue to get improved play from sophomore forward Jordan Murphy and senior graduate transfer Akeem Springs. Murphy is averaging 11.3 points and a team-leading 8.8 rebounds per game, while Springs had 16 points in the first meeting between these teams. Pitino said Springs rested on Friday, and the Gophers hope that he’s 100 percent after his back bothered him against Nebraska. Meanwhile, junior Nate Mason needs to continue to play like one of the Big Ten’s best point guards.
Pitino’s squad is seeking the program’s first NCAA Tournament berth since 2013, and it will be a tough out in The Dance. We’ll see if the Gophers can extend their win streak and do damage in the Big Ten tourney too. The Gophers are an NCAA lock, and it will be the first experience for Pitino as a head coach after falling one game short in his only season at FIU.
Matchup To Watch
Wisconsin frontcourt vs. Minnesota’s bigs
In the first meeting between these teams, Wisconsin played bigger and stronger, outscoring Minnesota in the paint, 44-24. Happ also blocked five shots. Murphy has become a double-double machine, while junior Illinois State transfer Reggie Lynch has an 11-block performance to his credit. The Gophers will be ready for a physical battle.
Wisconsin vs. Minnesota Betting Odds
Spread: No spread as of post
Over/Under: No line as of post
Wisconsin vs. Minnesota Prediction
Minnesota has not won in Madison since 2009. While these teams are seemingly going in opposite directions, Hayes, Koenig and Co. will rise to the occasion on Senior Night to score the home win.
Wisconsin vs. Minnesota final score prediction: Wisconsin 68, Minnesota 66