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Men’s basketball preview: Gophers look for upset over Ohio State in round two

Teams face each other for first time since January 3

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Minnesota Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

It certainly wasn’t pretty (in fact, it was downright ugly) but the Gophers prolonged their season by at least a day after beating Northwestern in what can only be described as a game that set the sport back by at least 20 years.

With Minnesota reeling from injuries it was a test of wills between the two teams of who wanted to lose less. And the Gophers nearly gave it up in the second half before turning on the juice for a few minutes and icing away the game down the stetch.

Their reward? Another day of survival in the Big Ten Tournament, which they need to win if they want to reach the NCAA Tournament, and a date with the #9 Ohio State Buckeyes. More broadly? It saves Richard Pitino’s job for at least another few hours.

Minnesota ripped the Buckeyes by 17 in their only regular season meeting on January 3rd, but that may as well have been a decade ago, because that was a different team with different players. If you’re looking for any sort of optimism it’s that the Gophers have been playing both down and up to their opponents recently, so maybe they’ll be energized going up against high-level competition. Maybe.

Essentials:

Opponent:

Ohio State Buckeyes (18-8, 12-8)

Date and Time:

Thursday, March 11 @ 1 p.m. CT

Location:

Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis, IN)

TV:

BTN

Radio:

KTLK 103.5-FM

Tell me more about the opponent.

Oh, did I mention that Ohio State is on a four-game losing streak? Yeah, they aren’t doing so hot right now. Granted, the losses have come against Michigan, Iowa, Illinois and Michigan State but, hey, losses are losses. The Buckeyes were in the mix for a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament not that long ago, but now it looks like they’re going to have to settle for a 2- or even 3-seed.

E.J. Liddell is playing like a first teamer and in hindsight had a very off night when these two teams last played. He is averaging 16 ppg and 6.3 rpg. Duane Washington Jr. is also having himself a nice little season, averaging more than 15 ppg, though he’s still liable to put up a stinker on any given night.

The Buckeye offense is ranked 4th in the nation by KenPom however, and though the Gophers have been slightly better lately on defense, they are clearly lost without Gabe Kalscheur and Liam Robbins. Ohio State can have their way with Minnesota if they want.

Predictions

It was nice to nab a win over Northwestern in the first round, if nothing else for the sliver of pride you get by not getting ousted by the conference’s worst team. Ohio State is a different animal. The pieces are in place for an unlikely upset given that Ohio State is reeling at the end of the season and has not played good basketball lately, but Marcus Carr looks disinterested and they fact that they couldn’t score more than 51 points against a putrid Northwestern team doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence.

This is probably the end of the road, but they’ve also got nothing to lose, so who knows?

Ohio State 81 | Minnesota 67