In the first meeting, Michigan State outrebounded Minnesota 49-27 and pushed around the Gophers' newcomers on its way to an easy win. The second meeting took place in East Lansing Feb. 4. Nothing good came out of that one, either. The Spartans handed the Gophers their worst loss in years, a 76-47 drubbing.
It's only fair that Minnesota faces Michigan State for the third time this year Friday in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis. Minnesota will likely earn an NCAA Tournament bid without beating the Spartans.
A win, however, would silence all critics of Minnesota's resume.
Still, nothing suggests that Michigan State won't do to Minnesota what it did earlier this season.
MINNESOTA 66, NORTHWESTERN 53: Minnesota held off a late run by Northwestern to seize a win that probably secured the school's first NCAA Tournament bid since 2005. The Wildcats stormed back to take a 49-47 lead late in the second half, but the Gophers hit 10 of their last 12 free throws to regain the momentum and take home the victory.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters — G Blake Hoffarber, G Devoe Joseph, F Damian Johnson, F Ralph Sampson III, C Colton Iverson. Key Subs — G Lawrence Westbrook, G Al Nolen, F Paul Carter, F Jamal Abu-Shamala, G/F Travis Busch, G Devron Bostick.
IN FOCUS: Managing Michigan State's malicious work on the glass is a key for Minnesota, which has size that doesn't always equate to rebounding effectiveness. If the Spartans get second-chance points, the Gophers, who have to maximize every offensive possession to beat MSU, would be in trouble.
Illinois 52, Minnesota 41
Minnesota 51, Wisconsin 46
Michigan 67, Minnesota 64
Minnesota 66, Northwestern 53 (Big Ten tournament quarterfinal)
vs. Michigan State, Friday, March 13 (Big Ten tournament semifinal)