Vegas Odds: pickem (each team favored by 1 at various online books) -- Bet at bodog
Why Minnesota will win:
Minnesota got hot at just the right time, and enters the NCAA Tournament feeling good despite fading in the 2nd half of the Big Ten title game. Not too many 11 seeds claim wins over Top 25 wins like Butler, Ohio St, Purdue, Wisconsin and Michigan St.
Gopher to Watch:
Blake Hoffarber, G - 10 ppg, 4 rpg, 2 apg
When Hoffarber scores 12 or more points, Minnesota is 13-0. When he doesn't, they're 8-13. He can stroke it from three (47%) but struggles to create shots and sometimes becomes a non-factor. Minnesota will need him to get the long ball working.
Why Xavier will win:
Xavier played a brutal non-conference schedule, mostly on the road, so this big neutral-court stage is nothing new for them. They enter having won 8 of 9 and claim the best player on the court in 20 ppg scorer Jordan Crawford.
Musketeer to Watch:
Terrell Holloway, G - 12 ppg, 2 rpg, 4 apg
Jordan Crawford is capable of scoring 20+ every night, but Holloway is much more inconsistent. He had particularly bad games in Xavier's big non-conference losses to Kansas St, Baylor, and Marquette (5-22 shooting for 6 ppg), but was huge in a big win over Cincy (26 points). He's a big x-factor.
How it will go down:
Xavier's defense is hit or miss, which should allow Minnesota to hang in the game until the end, especially if Minnesots hits threes at a 40% clip or better. The stats say this should be a very close game, but I like Xavier to pull one out in the end.
Betting Pick: Xavier
Real Pick: Xavier