The Penn State Nittany Lions won the NIT three years ago, and that will be the best shot they have right now at playing in the post-season. The Minnesota Golden Gophers won that tournament in 2014, but they would be disappointed if they had to go there again.
These teams will meet up on Wednesday night in a game that is more significant than it may seem.
It tips off at 7 PM ET at the Bryce Jordan Center in University Park, PA, and if you are a BetAnySports customer, you can get reduced juice before the game and real-time wagering while it's happening, thanks to Sports Betting Prime.
MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS at PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS, 7 PM ET (Big Ten Network)
Big Ten Basketball Betting Odds: Penn State -5, Total 147
The biggest uncertainty coming into this game involves Minnesota center Liam Robbins, who has sat out the last two games with a sprained ankle and was hampered by it for three games prior to that, as he missed twelve of 14 shots from the field.
Not so coincidentally, Minnesota has lost five straight, and what is alarming is that they are in danger of finishing below the .500 mark if they lose this game, the regular season finale against Rutgers, and don't do some damage in the Big Ten conference tournament.
That would unquestionably keep them out of the NCAA field, and that would be tragic, considering that the Gophers have scored spectacular victories over three of the top seven teams in the current Associated Press poll - Michigan, Iowa and Ohio State.
Robbins has averaged 13 points and over seven rebounds a game, and he also blocks 2.7 shots per contest, which would be a contributing factor toward making Penn State a one-dimensional offense here. The Nittany Lions shoot just 45.7% inside the three-point arc, and that places them outside the nation's top 300 in that category.
Penn State comes into this game with an 8-13 record, and they have beaten some very capable teams when you consider victories over the likes of Wisconsin, Rutgers and Virginia Tech. And it is Senior Night in University Park, as starters like Jamari Wheeler and John Harrar, among others, are honored.
Even though they don't have the marquee wins that Minnesota has posted, the Nittany Lions are ahead of the Gophers in the NET rankings, which the NCAA leans on heavily to select at-large teams for the tournament (and seed them as well). That is why they still hold out hope that they could get to the NIT with a win tonight and then over Maryland, followed by a win in the Big Ten tourney.
Ultimately what could keep Minnesota out of the Big Dance, and hurts them here, is the fact that they can't seem to buy themselves a win on the road. They haven't won as the visitor all season long, and carry just a 1-8 ATS log as the road club.
We've probably listed this before, but to recount, here is the road performance (all losses):
* 92-65 at Illinois
* 71-59 at Wisconsin
* 82-57 at Michigan
* 86-71 at Iowa
* 81-62 at Purdue
* 72-59 at Maryland
* 76-72 at Rutgers
* 82-72 at Indiana
* 78-74 at Nebraska
Notice that all but two of those were double-digit losses,and they even lost to Nebraska, which, in a down year for the Huskers, is inexcusable. Penn State's record is deceiving, so throw the records out the window. These teams have similar numbers in a lot of ways, but Penn State is probably a little better defensive side, and they are better from behind the arc.
They are also healthier. We're assuming Robbins is playing, but will he be 100%? Small forward Both Gach is very limited with a foot injury, and guard Gabe Kalscheur is out with a broken finger.
And then there is the factor that could trump everything - Penn State's home court edge is magnified because Minnesota can't win on the road.
As a result, we feel more comfortable being on the side of the favorite here.
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