3 keys and a prediction for Michigan basketball vs. Minnesota

Michigan basketball restarts Big Ten play on Thursday night. Here are three keys and a prediction for the Wolverines against Minnesota.
Dec 29, 2023; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA;  Michigan Wolverines guard Dug McDaniel (0) shoots in the
Dec 29, 2023; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA; Michigan Wolverines guard Dug McDaniel (0) shoots in the / Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday, Jan. 4. 487. Peacock . Michigan vs. Minnesota . 6-7. 485. 10-3. 9 PM ET . Michigan -5.5

After losing a second buy game last week, Michigan basketball restarts Big Ten play tonight against Minnesota in what I would call a must-win game.

The Wolverines are sitting at 6-7 overall. They are 1-1 in the Big Ten. The NCAA tournament seems like a pipe dream at this point. The goal for Michigan basketball is to find some consistency and just to see if this team can start putting together wins.

Michigan would probably need to win 11-12 games down the stretch to have a shot at the NCAA tournament. It all starts against a Minnesota team that has 10 wins so far this season but has played a weak schedule. The Golden Gophers are also 1-1 in the Big Ten and looking ahead to the matchup tonight, here are three keys and a prediction.

A good night from Dug McDaniel

McDaniel has been a spectacular scorer for the Wolverines this season, but in four of his past five games, Dug has shot below 40 percent. McDaniel does have 23 assists and 14 turnovers in those past five games, but against a Minnesota defense that puts the onus on the point guard, McDaniel has to deliver tonight.

If Michigan is going to evolve into an upper-tier Big Ten team this season, Dug McDaniel will need to be elite and that starts against a Minnesota defense that ranks 100th according to Kenpom in adjusted efficiency.

McDaniel has to bring it on defense too. Elijah Hawkins has been a great find for the Gophers in the transfer portal at point guard. Michigan will probably try to force him to score more than be a playmaker, which means Dug needs a good night on defense too.

Wolverines need to shoot well from deep

With Dawson Garcia, Minnesota has a solid interior defense. Minnesota ranks 44th in college basketball in terms of blocks, as well as 45th in opponent 2-point percentage. That could make things difficult for Tarris Reed and Olivier Nkamhoua inside. Nkamhoua will have to have a good night. Sort of like McDaniel, he's critical on both ends of the floor. It feels like he'll get a chance as a playmaker tonight with the way Minnesota defends. The Gophers do try to limit 3-point attempts and are 44th in 3-pointers allowed, but rank 202nd in 3-point defense.

It feels like this is a game where guys like Terrance Williams, Will Tschetter, Nimari Burnett, and Tray Jackson will get some looks. They just need to knock them down and playing at home, against a mediocre defensive team, they should.

Defense can't no-show

Minnesota ranks 36th in college basketball with an offensive rating of 1.16 points per possession this season. The Gophers are also shooting the ball really well inside, ranking 14th in 2-point field-goal percentage. Dawson Garcia has been a huge part of that. The Gophers have six players shooting 55 percent or better on 2-point attempts but also have three 40-percent 3-point shooters. Mike Mitchell and Cam Christie are both averaging more than two 3-point makes per game, so the Wolverines' defense will be challenged and they need to deliver. If Minnesota is around 1.16 points per possession, Michigan isn't going to win this game.


It's hard to have faith in this Michigan basketball team. They have looked great at times, and terrible at others. Yet, Minnesota isn't a great team and I don't see them winning in Ann Arbor, although nothing would surprise me at this point.


Michigan 78, Minnesota 69