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Minnesota Basketball: Previewing Nebraska

And just like that, the Gophers are in “need to win” mode

NCAA Basketball: Nebraska at Purdue Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Here we are, as expected. The Gophers, with a brutal February schedule, have had trouble finding success against some of the top teams in the conference, and now find themselves on the wrong end of a three-game skid, below .500 in the conference and watching their tournament resume shrivel up into a raisin. There isn’t much time left.

Enter Nebraska. The Cornhuskers are on a suspicious seven-game losing streak, with tournament ambitions all but evaporated. With the Gophers desperately trying to rack up three or four more wins before the season is out, a fading Huskers team could be just what the doctor ordered. Of course, winning on the road in the B1G is never easy, and the Gophers have only one true road victory this season, but its the first time Minnesota has had a winnable game in two weeks. Something’s gotta give.

We’ll know much more about this team by Sunday, with another winnable game on the horizon Saturday at home against Indiana. A 2-0 stretch this week would be a godsend for a suddenly flailing Gopher squad. A loss tonight, though, would be disastrous.

Essentials:

Who are the Gophers playing?

Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-10, 13-11)

What time are they playing?

Wednesday, Feb. 13 @ 8 p.m. CT

Where are they playing?

Pinnacle Bank Arena (Lincoln, Neb.)

Can I watch the game on TV?

Yes, BTN.

Can I listen to the game on the radio?

Yes, KFAN 100.3-FM

Tell me more about the opponent.

It’s been a sharp fall from grace for this year’s Cornhuskers team. When we last saw them they were 7-1 on the young season before suffering their first conference loss at the hands of the Gophers. Since then their fortunes have turned dramatically. They now sit in the middle of a seven-game losing streak, that has spanned both home and road games and include losses to Illinois, Rutgers and Ohio State. What’s worse? Star forward Isaac Copeland Jr. tore his ACL against Ohio State and is done for the season. Copeland was averaging 14 ppg, second on the team, and more than five rebounds a game. He’s tough to replace for Tim Miles.

James Palmer is still a stud, and is third in the conference in scoring at 19 ppg, but the Huskers just haven’t been able to keep up with opponents offensively lately. What’s interesting is that their peripherals still look good, and KenPom has them ranked #35 despite a seven-game skid. In fact, they have the 40th ranked offense and 35th ranked defense. Talk about strange.

More glaring is their poor rebounding ability, an area where the Gophers can really help themselves. The Huskers give up a ton of offensive rebounds, so if Minnesota can get back some second-chance points they could be in great shape.

Predictions

The Gophers are not playing good basketball right now, but they’ve also played tough teams in tough places. The Huskers are 3-10 in the conference, so it’s possible Minnesota will catch them in the midst of mailing it in for the rest of the season. The Gophers need this game far more than Nebraska does, but they also need to execute.

I’m sensing a bounce-back from Minnesota. I don’t think they’re dead yet. I’ll take them by 3.