Should the Gophers fear popular March Madness upset pick Middle Tennessee? [POLL]

Should Minnesota Gophers Nate Mason, left, and Jordan Murphy fear the underdog Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders? Experts think so.

Should Minnesota Gophers Nate Mason, left, and Jordan Murphy fear the underdog Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders? Experts think so. Jerry Holt

Your Minnesota Golden Gophers mens' basketball team is primed to be upset by the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders -- if we're to believe the din of March Madness prognosticators. 

The trendy NCAA tournament upset pick isn't without merit, either. When the No. 5 seed Gophers tip off Thursday against the No. 12 seed Blue Raiders (3 p.m., TNT), they'll be without starting guard/co-captain Akeem Springs, who suffered a torn Achilles tendon during last Friday's win over Michigan State.

Speaking of Michigan State, that's the school Middle Tennessee upset in historic fashion in the 2016 tourney. The Blue Raiders' top two scorers -- the excellently named Giddy Potts and Reggie Upshaw -- return to this year's dance, and now they're joined by explosive transfer JaCorey Williams (17.3 PPG, 7.3 RPG). At 30-4, Middle Tennessee easily topped the Conference USA standings.

Plus, ya know, the Gophs suffer from the cosmic indignity of being a Minnesota sports team. 

On the other hand, Minnesota will dribble into Milwaukee's BMO Harris Bradley Center with their highest seed since the 1997 Final Four run. The back court features sniping guards Nate Mason (15.5 PPG) and freshman sensation Amir Coffey (12.1 PPG), while big man Jordan Murphy (8.8 RPG) roams the paint. Fourth-year head coach Richard Pitino has his 24-9 squad believing. Governor Mark Dayton picked 'em to win it all ... so there's that. 

But back to the gloom/doom scenarios. Here's what the college basketball chattering class is saying:

Sports Illustrated: SI's Luke Winn chose Middle Tennessee in his post headlined "March Madness Cinderella Rankings: The most likely teams to pull off big upsets." He writes: 

"I'm on the Middle Tennessee train for more than just the pleasure of saying Giddy Potts. The Blue Raiders are not an easy team to prepare for because they mix up defenses in unpredictable ways."

GQ: In "How to Destroy Everyone Else's Tournament Bracket," Reid Forgrave recommends the following:

"May I recommend picking 12-seed Middle Tennessee State over 5-seed Minnesota? This is not just because Middle Tennessee is underseeded and Minnesota is overseeded; it's because Minnesota sports fans are the most fatalistic in sports, and a first-round upset loss would fall right in line with the state's history of Blair Walsh, Gary Anderson and drafting both Jonny Flynn and Ricky Rubio over Steph Curry."

CBS Sports: Among Chip Patterson's "Three Bold Predictions" for the South Region:

"The biggest first round upset will be ... Wake Forest (or Kansas State) over Cincinnati and Middle Tennessee over Minnesota. That’s right, two double-digit seeds will make it to the weekend in the South Region, providing some Cinderella-style fun in a bracket dominated by the best and most explosive teams in college basketball."

USA Today: Steven Ruiz tabbed Minnesota-Middle Tennessee for his "3 upsets to pick in the opening round of the 2017 NCAA tournament" crystal-ball gazing:

"[Middle Tennessee] is going to score on Minnesota, and the Big Ten team has had trouble putting the ball in the basket all season with an effective field goal percentage of 48.6, which ranks 249th nationally. This one might not even be close."

NBC Sports: In "Introducing Cinderella: Will Middle Tennessee pull off another upset in 2017?," Terrence Payne gushes:

"Middle Tennessee will be the trendy upset pick. Although it won’t be surprising giving its upset win over Michigan State from a season ago. The Blue Raiders are led by a trio of reliable scorers, who all happen to be experienced upperclassmen. While this team is missing some key pieces from a season ago, they’ve become a more efficient team on both ends of the floor."

ESPN: Myron Metcalf -- a graduate of Minnesota State University, no less! -- includes the following doozy among his "big, bold predictions"

"Without injured guard Akeem Springs (9.5 PPG, 38 percent from the 3-point line), Minnesota won't find enough offense in a tight, opening-round loss to a Middle Tennessee squad that rarely commits turnovers and connects on 37 percent of its 3-pointers."

But that's not all: Metcalf also predicts Middle Tennessee will advance to the Sweet 16. 

Fox Sports: Aaron Torres thinks Middle Tennessee has Sweet 16 hopes, too. Writing in "These 7 teams could ruin your NCAA tournament bracket"

"We alluded to the Blue Raiders’ upset of Michigan State last year. The scary thing is that Kermit Davis’ club is even better in 2017. They enter the tournament as a team everyone has wanted to avoid for weeks, coming off a 30-4 regular season with 21 wins in their last 22 games. Not only is Middle Tennessee State capable of beating Minnesota in Round 1, but the Butler/Winthrop winner in the second round. Do not be surprised to see this team in the Sweet 16."

Bleacher Report: And here's the hyper-confident Brian Pedersen with his upset pick for the South Region

"This one was a little too easy to pick. When a 2016 Cinderella, Middle Tennessee, was paired up with Minnesota, the social media reactions were pretty uniform: The 12th-seeded Blue Raiders (30-4) are going to be an overwhelming upset pick against the fifth-seeded Golden Gophers (24-9). The 5/12 matchup has produced at least one upset in every tourney but one since 2008, and MTSU over Minnesota feels like one of the safest bets in years. And the reasons are twofold, leaning more toward MTSU's prowess than the Gophers' vulnerability."

Cue the Rodney Dangerfield memes!

Over at ESPN, The People's Bracket -- a composite of every reader-selected bracket -- has 59 percent picking Minnesota.  

The projection algorithm at Nate Silver's website 538 gives the Gophers just a 52 percent chance at besting Middle Tennessee. Minnesota has an 18 percent chance at the Sweet 16, a 4 percent chance at the Elite 8, and a 1 percent chance at the Final 4, according to 538. Then again, remember that landslide victory they predicted last November? 

But let's hear from you, beleaguered Minnesota sports fans: 

Should the No. 5 seed Gophers fear No. 12 seed Middle Tennessee?
No way, man. The Gophs will crush 'em.
You bet: These Gophs are gonna get upset.
Tough to say! The magic of sports is all about unpredictability.
Quotes To Know