Welp, January is done. The Gophers closed out the month by picking up a crucial home win against Iowa and held serve against Illinois to improve to 6-4 in the conference at the halfway point. And for a conference that only seems to be increasing in parity, there are a ton of opportunities left for Minnesota to pick up some huge wins and improve their lot in March. But they’ve got win them first, and that is far from a simple task.
Things get real in a hurry on Sunday as the Gophers head to West Lafayette to take on the #17 Boilermakers who have separated themselves from the pack and asserted themselves as one of the top teams in the conference. They’re red hot, having won six straight games, including on the road against Wisconsin and at home against Michigan State. But for a Minnesota team that, finally, isn’t in a must/needs-to win situation, and who hasn’t necessarily been afraid of tough teams on the road, it’s an intriguing opportunity to pick up an unexpected win against an unsuspecting foe.
Who are the Gophers playing?
Purdue Boilermakers (8-2, 15-6)
What time are they playing?
Sunday, Feb. 3 @ 11 a.m. CT
Where are they playing?
Mackey Arena (West Lafayette, Ind.)
Can I watch the game on TV?
Yes, BTN (Corey Provus, Stephen Bardo)
Can I listen to the game on the radio?
Yes, KFAN 100.3-FM.
Tell me more about the opponent.
First off, let’s cover two truths: Purdue is beatable, and they never lose at home. Seem contradictory? Well, they kind of are. The Boilers have racked up six losses already this season, so it’s not like they’re an invincible Goliath. The losses have been to good teams, though a neutral court loss to Notre Dame is the one outlier. And the home court thing? They’ve only lost twice in the past two calendar years at home, which is pretty crazy. One of those losses thought? To the Gophers on January 1st, 2017 when Nate Mason looked like Superman.
On paper, they’re really good, and have the second-best offense in the nation according to KenPom, and they will light you up from downtown if the defense isn’t careful. Carsen Edwards, who scored 38 points in the win over the Nittany Lions, leads the Purdue offense averaging 25 points per game (fifth in the nation), and 22.5 points per Big Ten contest. Both of those figures are the highest in the conference.
He’s flanked by Ryan Cline, a veritable assassin. Cline is fifth in the conference in 3P% and has attempted the most three-pointers by a wide margin. The last time he made fewer than two three-pointers in a game was in December. Oy.
Okay, so I’m not actually picking the Gophers to win this one, but hear me out. The Big Ten is crazy this year. Indiana just beat Michigan State on the road, Minnesota almost took down Michigan in Ann Arbor, Illinois beat Maryland. Things are weird. And the Gophers are temporarily out of the must-win situation they faced in home contests against Iowa and Illinois. So, now that the pressure is off, they can just let ‘er rip. Purdue is the one that needs to meet expectations in this one.
I think the Gophers keep it close. Let’s see what happens.