It wasn't the 8-9 game most of us were hoping for, but Tubby Smith's troops will suit up Thursday morning to kick off the Big Ten Tournament against the best Northwestern team to ever wear purple and white.
In my opinion, the Gophers need a win in this game to get into the tournament. A loss will put them in a very precarious position, especially given the team's Tim Brewster-like late season swoon.
Some people have pointed to Minnesota's recent throttling of the Wildcats as proof to be upbeat about this game. But many Wildcats were off their game because of flu symptoms when they came to The Barn. One thing that does help is the Wildcats will use the same 1-3-1 defense that Michigan did for most of the game Saturday. It wasn't until John Beilein switched to a 2-3 zone that Minnesota's offense went silent.
Should the Gophers get by Northwestern, top seeded Michigan State waits.
The other first roud matchups include #7 Michigan against #10 Iowa, with the winner facing Illinois. At the bottom of the bracket is #6 Penn State taking on lowly Indiana with a right to face Purdue. Your 4-5 game pits Wisconsin against Ohio State.
So, what say you? Can the Gophers beat Northwestern? If so, do they have any chance against the Spartans? And who is your conference favorite? My pick is the Spartans (on a limb, I know), because they seem to be far and away superior to anyone else in the conference. But the sad thing is, they are probably hoping to see the Gophers and not Northwestern in round 2.