The Gophers passed their first test on Wednesday, beating down the Northwestern Wildcats 74-57 in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament behind good games from Daniel Oturu, Marcus Carr and Payton Willis. After a so-so first half the Gophers dominated in the second and really never looked back, en route to a three-game season sweep of the Wildcats.
Things get tougher on Thursday when Minnesota faces Iowa for their second game in two days. The blowout allowed Richard Pitino to rest the starters, which should hopefully pay some dividends in the game, especially for guys like Oturu and Carr who are used to playing almost the entire game.
Things get weirder, and if you followed the news at all on Wednesday you now know that games will be played in front of no fans, with only players, coaches, staff and family members allowed at the game as a result of social spacing to protect against disease transmission. That is, if they even play the game in the first place. Assuming they do, it will be an odd one to watch with literally no fans in the stands.
Iowa Hawkeyes (11-9, 20-11)
Date and Time:
Thursday, March 12 @ 1:30 p.m. CT
Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Indianapolis, IN)
Tell me more about the opponent.
When the Gophers last faced Iowa it was a potential turning point of the season and a time when the team was in a position to really make a case for being an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. Instead it was the first of many second-half letdowns where they gave up a winnable game and instead were left with a miserable loss. Is it time for redemption?
Luka Garza is perhaps the nation’s best player (he was named the APs player of the year), but this isn’t a team that’s made up of superstars. In actuality they’re actually quite pedestrian. One thing that sucked last game: Alihan Demir tried to guard Garza and got so dominated that he was taken out within the first few minutes of the game. Yikes.
Joe Wieskamp has fallen off slightly but is still averaging 14 points and 6 rebounds per game. CJ Fredrick is also averaging in double figures. However, the Hawkeyes have lost three of their last four, so they’re not exactly clicking these days.
Will this game even get played? That’s anyone’s guess at this point. KenPom basically has this game as a toss-up and I tend to agree. I don’t think Iowa on a neutral court is that much better than the Gophers. How about some optimism? I’ll take the Gophers by three.