Big Ten Tournament • Chicago
6 p.m. Thursday vs. Penn State • United Center • BTN (100.3-FM)
Gophers will have hands full stopping All-Big Ten Stevens
Preview: The No. 7 seed Gophers (19-12, 9-11 Big Ten) failed to end the regular season with a win and finish with a .500 record in conference play after falling 69-60 at Maryland last Friday, but they see the Big Ten tournament as a fresh start. After a first-round bye in Chicago, Minnesota faces No. 10 seed Penn State (14-17, 7-12) on Thursday night with a chance to solidify an NCAA tournament at-large bid. The Nittany Lions, who have won seven of their past 10 games, are actually favored by two points despite having lost the first meeting 65-64 at Williams Arena on Jan. 19. The winner plays Friday night against No. 2 seed Purdue in the quarterfinals. The Gophers are 3-0 against Penn State in the Big Ten tournament, including a 63-56 victory in Indianapolis in the 7-10 seed game in Richard Pitino’s first season in 2013-14.
Players to watch: Gophers senior forward Jordan Murphy and junior guard Amir Coffey were both named to the All-Big Ten teams Monday. Murphy, an all-league first team selection by the media, had 19 points and a career-high-tying 21 rebounds in the last meeting with Penn State. Coffey, an all-league third-team pick, has scored 87 points in his past three games. … Penn State junior forward Lamar Stevens was named All-Big Ten first team by the coaches after averaging 19.8 points and 7.8 rebounds during the regular season. The 6-8, 230-pound Stevens had 27 points in the earlier loss against the Gophers in January.
Numbers: The Nittany Lions are ranked No. 49 in the NCAA’s NET rankings, which barely places them in the Quadrant 1 category for an opponent’s win (neutral site 1-50 NET rank). The Gophers are 56th in the NET, but they can boost their 3-9 Quad 1 record with a victory Thursday.