(15-1, 10-3 ATS)
Minnesota Golden Gophers
(12-4, 7-9 ATS)
Big Ten NCAA basketball betting action heads to Minneapolis on Thursday night, where the Purdue Boilermakers will try to make for very unwelcome guests to the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
The Boilermakers haven’t had Robbie Hummel all season long, but they have still really looked like a train that is not going to get stopped. These men had a chance to really come together at the end of last season without Hummel, and they have done a fantastic job without him this year. JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore have been spectacular this year, averaging over 38 points per game between them this year. The real question though, as always, is who is going to be the third man that helps out this cause. So far, no one has really needed to step up. John Hart has been out of the fold with a foot injury for the past eight games, and though he might not be back in the lineup quite yet for this one, his return is imminent. Ryne Smith is the only other man on this team that is averaging even six points per game, something that is really surprising for a squad that is ranked in the Top 10 in the country.
Minnesota has its share of problems right now, and Head Coach Tubby Smith knows that he is going to have a very, very big hole that he has to fill. After coming up just short of upsetting the Ohio State Buckeyes, Trevor Mbakwe was arrested for violating his restraining order that he had against him. Now, he is extremely questionable for the game on Thursday night, and there is a great chance that the university or the team will elect to suspend him for at least part of, if not the entirety of the 2011 season. Without Mbakwe in the lineup, there aren’t really any big time bangers on the inside, as Ralph Sampson III is the only man that is averaging over 5.5 boards on this team, and he is only at 5.7. Look for Colton Iverson to be asked to do more, as he is second on the team with 5.4 rebounds per game, though he is only averaging 6.3 points per game in 17.5 minutes per game. Blake Hoffarber is the squad’s leading scorer at 13.4 points per game this year, and he also has 69 assists to pace the team in that category to boot.
For as much as we would love to take Minnesota as a live home dog, we know that this isn’t a great spot to be in for the Gophers. Purdue is a known commodity right now, and if Mbakwe doesn’t play, we don’t really know what Minnesota has to bring to the table. Don’t be surprised if Purdue takes this one by the horns and just runs away with it very early on.
College Basketball Free Pick: Purdue Boilermakers