6:45 p.m. Saturday • Des Moines (Ch. 4; 100.3-FM)
Victory would mean Sweet 16
Preview: The 10 seed Gophers (22-13) play Saturday against 2 seed Michigan State (29-6) for their first trip to the Sweet 16 since the Final Four season in 1997. The Spartans, Big Ten co-regular season and conference tournament champion, defeated the Gophers 79-55 on Feb. 9 in East Lansing in their only previous meeting this season. The Gophers won for the fifth time in the past seven games and in the NCAA tournament for the first time in six years Thursday with an 86-76 victory over 7 seed Louisville. Michigan State advanced to the second round with a 76-65 victory over 15 seed Bradley. Big Ten schools haven’t met in the NCAA tournament since Michigan State beat Wisconsin in the 2000 Final Four in Indianapolis.
Key matchup: Daniel Oturu vs. Nick Ward. Oturu is having one of the best freshman seasons for a big man in program history, but his post defense against a physical presence needs work. It didn’t go so well the last time he faced Ward, who had 22 points and nine rebounds. But Ward is slowly coming back from a hand injury.
Players to watch: Gophers freshman guard Gabe Kalscheur was the first player in program history to have at least 24 points and eight rebounds in an NCAA tournament game since Bobby Jackson’s 36 points and eight rebounds in the Sweet 16 against Clemson in 1997. Kalscheur was averaging 5.7 points in his previous six games before his breakout performance Thursday, which included 5-for-7 shooting from three-point range. Spartans guard Cassius Winston, who was the Big Ten player of the year, had 26 points on 8-for-16 shooting from the field and 8-for-8 from the foul line in Thursday’s win against Bradley. Winston struggled scoring in his last outing vs. Minnesota with 11 points, but he also had nine assists.
Numbers: Gophers junior guard Amir Coffey is averaging 21.7 points in his past six games, but he had only four points and four turnovers in a loss at Michigan State last month.