When Minnesota hosts Northwestern at 8:30 Wednesday evening in Minneapolis, it'll be looking to continue its ascent up the Big Ten standings. It was only a few weeks ago that the Golden Gophers were hanging around the bottom of the league at 1-3, but with three straight wins, they now sit 4-3 behind only Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin in the standings.
Coming off a win against Michigan on Saturday, Minnesota (15-4, 4-3) has risen to No. 18 in the polls and are getting excellent play from forward Trevor Mbakwe, who's averaging a double-double in the last five games. The Gophers will face three ranked opponents in their next four games, though, so they might want to take advantage of easier competition while they can.
Northwestern (13-6, 3-5) could really use a signature win for its NCAA Tournament resume. The Wildcats are by no means out of the race, but need to beat some better teams to impress the committee. After getting crushed against Wisconsin on Sunday, a road win at Williams Arena would be a nice way to get back on track.
When Northwestern Has The Ball
- John Shurna has been great in Northwestern's wins and pedestrian to below average in its losses. He needs to step up in a big game eventually for the Wildcats to have a shot at dancing. Why not tonight?
- Minnesota has a huge advantage on the glass in this game. If the Gophers control the glass like the statistics say they should, it'll go a long way toward keeping the momentum going at home.
When Minnesota Has The Ball
- Keeping with the rebounding theme for the Gophers, if they can get to the offensive boards, they'll generate plenty of offense and should be in pretty good shape. Make second chances a priority and it'll go a long way.
- If you're Northwestern, get a body on Mbakwe. Limiting his damage on the glass will open things up a little more for Northwestern and make it easier to keep things close. If he's grabbing all the misses, though, it might be a long night.
Minnesota is on a roll and Northwestern is still struggling to get its sea legs in conference play. It would appear this one favors Minnesota, but you never know what a desperate team can do. The 'cats have shown fight against teams on Minnesota's level like Michigan State, so they can stay with the Gophers.