Michigan St Spartans vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers Pick & Prediction MARCH 14th 2024

Michigan State has made the NCAA Tournament 25 consecutive times in which it has been played. It’s not a sure thing the Spartans will extend that streak after they lost four of their last five regular-season games.

That’s why their matchup with Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament at Minneapolis on Thursday afternoon carries added meaning. The victor will take on top-seeded Purdue in the quarterfinals on Friday.

The Spartans enter the tournament as the No. 8 seed with the Golden Gophers at No. 9. Both teams have 18-13 records but Michigan State still is projected to get an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament due to strength of schedule and some quality wins.

A loss on Thursday could put the Spartans on the dreaded bubble.

“We’re not trying to think about it,” Michigan State guard Jaden Akins said of the streak. “But it’s always a thing every year, just because we’ve been every year. So obviously, we’re trying to keep that streak alive. … I feel like we also underachieved in some areas. But that’s why we have a chance to turn it around.”

Spartans coach Tom Izzo has urged his team to embrace the challenge.

“I just keep saying if that pressure gets to you, why did you come here?” Izzo said. “That’s what I say. I mean, you know what you were getting into. And that’s what they all wanted, they want to get into that.”

The Golden Gophers also lost four of their last five games, including double-digit defeats to Indiana and Northwestern in their last two outings.

“We’re better than we’ve shown,” Minnesota coach Ben Johnson said. “For the most part with a new group that bought in, I thought it continued to get better as the year went on. They continued to believe and grow and develop to win nine games in the league and get themselves in the middle of the road (in the conference).”

The Spartans and Golden Gophers split their two regular-season meetings. Tyson Walker scored 21 points in Michigan State’s 76-66 victory on Jan. 18. Cam Christie’s 19-point performance lifted Minnesota to a 59-56 win in the rematch on Feb. 6.

–Field Level Media

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