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Minnesota Vs. Michigan: Gophers Look To Clear .500

It wasn't very long ago that No. 19 Minnesota was staring a 1-4 start to Big Ten play in the face, but after grabbing a couple big wins, the Golden Gophers will be looking to move to 4-3 in conference with a win tonight against Michigan at 7:00 on the Big Ten Network.

Minnesota (14-4, 3-3) has won three of its last four games against Indiana, then No. 8 Purdue and Iowa. Last time out, the Gophers picked up a 10 point win against Iowa at home. Trevor Mbakwe had a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds off the bench. Minnesota got to the boards well as a team, too, outrebounding the Hawkeyes 38-28 on the evening.

Michigan (11-8, 1-5) is scuffling in Big Ten play, having lost its last five conference games after beating Penn State at home in its conference opener. The Wolverines were overcome by Northwestern on Tuesday in Evanston as John Shurna and the Wildcats rained 10 threes on Michigan and came away with a comfortable 74-60 victory.

Keys to the game after the jump.

When Minnesota Has The Ball

  • Mbakwe has double-doubles in two of the last three games for Minnesota and is coming on strong despite his legal troubles. If the Gophers can get him involved in the game like that Saturday evening, they'll be well on their way.
  • Michigan averages roughly six rebounds less than Minnesota on the season, so it's imperative that the Wolverines try to cut into that to have a chance. If the Gophers are allowed to control the glass like the stats dictate, it could be a very difficult night for Michigan.

When Michigan Has The Ball

  • Minnesota is a bigger team than Michigan, so the Wolverines should look to neutralize some of that size by penetrating against and attacking guys like Mbakwe, Ralph Sampson III and Colton Iverson. If Michigan can get one or two of them in foul trouble and off the floor, it'll open things up for the Wolverines.
  • Really, if Minnesota can clamp down on one Michigan's big three scorers, Zack Novak, Darius Morris or Tim Hardaway Jr., then it'll be very hard for the offensively challenged Wolverines to keep pace. Shutting down one guy should do the trick for the Gophers.

Overall

If Minnesota intends to stay in the Big Ten race after reasserting itself in the last week, this is a game the Gophers must have.  They haven't won on the road in the Big Ten, yet, and that's certainly not going to help their seed come NCAA Tournament time if they don't pick up a few soon. They won't get many better opportunities than against this young Michigan squad.