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Gophers begin potential redemption story against Northwestern

Five wins in five days needed for NCAA Tournament berth

NCAA Basketball: Minnesota at Northwestern Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

The Gophers ended their regular season with a blowout of conference cellar dweller Nebraska, beating the shorthanded Cornhuskers 107-75 in a game that was perhaps more of a blowout than the 32-point differential indicates. Gabe Kalscheur tied a school record with 8 three-pointers and the team went 18-35 overall from deep. Unfortunately, it was a shooting performance that we haven’t seen too often lately, save for wins over Northwestern and Wisconsin.

Now the postseason begins, and how long it lasts is up to Minnesota. Their lone chance for redemption and a trip to the NCAA Tournament requires a championship run through the Big Ten Tournament, which means five wins in five days. As the 12-seed, that means wins over Northwestern, Iowa, Illinois and beyond. Doable? Sure. Likely? Not with the consistency that this team has shown.

That said, it’s a conference where anyone can beat anyone, and the Gophers can realistically beat any opponent on any given night. It just gets more difficult as the consecutive days mount up.

A bad Northwestern team is first, and is an opponent Minnesota just a couple weeks ago by 26 points. Here we go.

Essentials:

Opponent:

Northwestern Wildcats (3-17, 8-22)

Date and Time:

Wednesday, March 11 @ 5 p.m. CT

Location:

Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Indianapolis, IN)

TV:

BTN

Radio:

KTLK 103.5-FM

Tell me more about the opponent.

The Gophers shot the lights out in Evanston the last time these two met, and Minnesota is on a three-game conference winning streak, looking to make it four.

Northwestern had been on a 12 game losing streak but then beat Nebraska and then somehow beat Penn State at home to close out the regular season. Technically they are playing their best basketball of the season.

However, the Wildcats are just 3-11 in games away from Welsh-Ryan Arena this season, including a neutral site victory over Missouri Valley Conference Tournament champion Bradley in November. Freshman Miller Kopp is NU’s leading scorer, pacing a trio of double-digit scorers with 13.2 points per game. Boo Buie and Pat Spencer each contribute 10.5 points per contest as well.

Northwestern is second in the Big Ten and ranks ninth in the nation with the fewest turnovers while ranking 10th in the country and second in the Big Ten averaging 10.6 turnovers per game. However, they don’t force many turnovers and overall don’t do a great job of disrupting the offensive flow of opponents.

Predictions

The Gophers should roll in this one. The best case scenario is they blow out the Wildcats and can rest their starters to prep for the grind of several games in consecutive days.