DES MOINES – When Minnesota tries to upset second-seeded Michigan State in Saturday's second round, it will be the earliest two Big Ten teams have played in the NCAA tournament since the expansion to 64 teams in 1985.
Neither coach criticized the NCAA tournament selection committee for creating this situation with the bracket, but they were frustrated about making history in that way.
"I would rather play somebody else and not know them," Gophers coach Richard Pitino said Friday.
Spartans coach Tom Izzo said he was rooting for the other Big Ten teams when they started the NCAA tournament with a 6-0 record (it's 7-1 now), but now his team could potentially play back-to-back games against conference opponents, with sixth-seeded Maryland also eyeing a Sweet 16 bid in the East Region in Washington, D.C.
"It's one of the rare times in my whole life that I ever pull for my in-state rival for a little bit," Izzo joked about cheering for the Michigan Wolverines, who also advanced to play Florida in the second around in Des Moines. "I do feel my school is Michigan State, but I have a sense of ownership for the Big Ten, too. And I think [the Big Ten's success] has been great. The only part that's disappointing is that we gotta face each other."
The Gophers and Spartans also represent the first meeting between Big Ten teams in the NCAA tournament since Michigan State defeated Wisconsin in the 2000 Final Four in Indianapolis.
Murphy gets some rest, Stockman undergoes tests
Gophers senior forward Jordan Murphy missed practice Friday after suffering from back spasms in Thursday's game, but he's expected to play Saturday. Murphy, who scored 18 points in the victory over Louisville, was not available to media in the locker room Friday, because he was receiving treatment for his back.
"Jordan has improved," Pitino said. "He was struggling, laboring through that second half. We got a lot of treatment for him. We didn't go full-go today in practice by any means, but we held him out. But ... I would be very surprised if he doesn't play."
Senior center Matz Stockman was sidelined against his former Louisville team, but the Gophers put him through concussion protocol tests Friday to see if he could play against Michigan State.
Pitino said he didn't know Stockman's status, because his recovery process is day-to-day.