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Gophers, Hoosiers clash

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Minnesota Can Punch NCAA Ticket With Upset Of Indiana

If you believe ESPN’s Bracketology, the University of Minnesota is currently an NCAA Tournament team. However, that’s far from a certainty with the Gophers at 18-9 overall and 6-8 in the Big Ten. Working in Minnesota’s favor is that they play in the nation’s best basketball conference this season, so a slightly below-.500 Big Ten record might be acceptable.

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The Gophers can put all Big Dance uncertainty to rest, however, if they can upset top-ranked Indiana on Tuesday night in Minneapolis. The Hoosiers are now distancing themselves as the national title favorites at the book, currently at 9/2. Bovada will have live play-by-play betting for Tuesday’s game.

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Minnesota is slumping at the wrong time of the season. It was blown out at Iowa (another bubble team) and Ohio State in its past two games and has lost four of five (0-4-1 ATS). Minnesota was ranked as high as No. 8 in the nation after winning 15 of its first 16 games. The Gophers had a season-high 24 turnovers and shot only 29% from the field in last Wednesday’s 26-point loss in Columbus.

The good news is that Minnesota has an excellent RPI of 17 entering this week boosted by a strength of schedule that’s No. 1 in the country – largely due to the ultra-deep Big Ten. The school has very good wins over Memphis, Michigan State, Illinois and Wisconsin (all were ranked at the time). Minnesota’s worst loss was at Northwestern.

Indiana beat Minnesota 88-81 in Bloomington as an eight-point favorite on January 12. That started the Gophers’ downward spiral from their 15-1 start. Victor Oladipo had 20 points and six rebounds in that one and Cody Zeller 18 points and six rebounds as IU nearly blew a 23-point halftime lead late in the game. Andre Hollins finished with 25 points and four steals to lead Minnesota.

The Hoosiers (24-3, 12-2) are in the driver’s seat for their first Big Ten title since 2002. Since a loss at the buzzer at Illinois on February 7, IU has won and covered four straight, including wins over ranked teams Ohio State and Michigan State. Indiana should be well-rested for the stretch run as it hasn’t played since last Tuesday, when they ended a record 17-game losing streak in East Lansing.

Also on Tuesday, the book offers live play-by-play betting on No. 8 Florida at Tennessee. The Gators are the second-favorites to win the national title at 13/2. UF has been playing the past six games without top reserve Will Yeguete, and that bench got thinner in Saturday’s 71-54 win over Arkansas. Guard Michael Frazier II suffered a concussion in the victory and is out indefinitely. The freshman is averaging 6.2 points and 3.3 rebounds per game and leads the team in three-point shooting at 48.9%. That leaves Florida with only six experienced players heading into Tuesday’s game.

The Vols (16-10, 8-4) are making a push to be considered for an at-large NCAA Tournament bid. They beat Texas A&M 93-85 in four overtimes Saturday for their fifth-straight win and cover. UT has an RPI of 56 with two wins over teams ranked at the time: Wichita State and Kentucky. Should Tennessee upset Florida, it’s conceivable it could close the regular season on a nine-game winning streak. Games at Georgia and Auburn and a home tilt against Missouri remain on the Vols’ schedule. The Dawgs and Tigers are both under .500 and Missouri isn’t a great road team.

On Wednesday, the book offers No. 7 Georgetown at Connecticut and Oklahoma at Texas. Few teams are playing as well as the Hoyas (21-4, 11-3). They took sole possession of the Big East lead with a 57-46 win at Syracuse on Saturday, ending the Orange’s 38-game home winning streak. Otto Porter had a season-high 33 points and all but locked down the Big East Player of the Year award. It was Georgetown’s ninth-straight win and cover. GU is still a bit of a national title long shot at 22/1 at Bovada.

Connecticut is ineligible for postseason play this year. The Huskies (19-7, 9-5) have won four of their past five games and have been good against ranked teams this year, beating Michigan State, Notre Dame and Syracuse.

Oklahoma (18-8, 9-5) would get an at-large NCAA bid if the season ended today, but the Sooners don’t have a ton of wiggle room. They have won four of five with each win by double-digits. A loss Wednesday at struggling Texas would be a blow to OU’s resume, although it does have a very good RPI of 22. The Sooners handled the Horns 73-67 on January 21 in Norman but failed to cover the 7.5-point spread. It ended OU’s six-game losing streak in the series.

UT’s streak of 14-straight NCAA Tournament appearances will end if the Longhorns (12-15, 4-10) don’t win the Big 12 Tournament. Texas is 2-2 (2-2 ATS) since star guard Myck Kabongo returned from his 23-game suspension to start the season.

Check back Thursday for a weekend Live Betting preview at the book.

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