11 a.m. vs. Ohio State • Madison Square Garden
TV; radio: BTN; 1130-AM, 103.5 FM
Watch Murphy vs. Bates-Diop
Preview: The Gophers (14-7, 3-5 in conference) are playing their third game in New York this season Saturday after beating Massachusetts and Alabama in the Barclays Center Classic in Brooklyn in November. Minnesota had Reggie Lynch and Amir Coffey and were nationally ranked and undefeated on the last trip to the Big Apple. Now Richard Pitino is down two starters (Lynch suspended and Coffey hurt shoulder) and his team has four losses in the last five games, including three by an average margin of 22 points against Northwestern, Purdue and Maryland. Pitino has tried two different starting lineups (Michael Hurt and Jamir Harris took turns replacing Coffey), but the Gophers are still searching for the best combination. No. 22 Ohio State (16-4, 7-0) is the biggest surprise team in the Big Ten going from being projected 10th place to be a conference title contender under first-year coach Chris Holtmann. The Buckeyes are no fluke having already beaten Michigan State, Michigan and Maryland.
Players to watch: Minnesota’s Jordan Murphy and Ohio State’s Keita Bates-Diop are both 6-foot-7 junior forwards and Big Ten player of the year candidates. Murphy had the early edge after leading the league in scoring and rebounding at midseason. His numbers dropped in conference play, but Murphy is still averaging 18.1 points and a league-best 12.1 rebounds. Bates-Diop leads the conference now in scoring (21.4) and ranks third in rebounding (9.3) in league games. His most memorable performance so far was a 32-point game in a Jan. 7 upset at then-No. 1 Michigan State.
Numbers: Ohio State leads the Big Ten in scoring offense (79.4) and ranks second in scoring defense (63.6) in league games.