Preview: The last time the Gophers (17-11, 6-10 Big Ten) played Northwestern on Jan. 26, they were relieved to defeat another Big Ten opponent a few days after Al Nolen broke his foot. But they have won only once since that 81-70 victory at Williams Arena. Coach Tubby Smith said he might move Blake Hoffarber back to shooting guard and start Maverick Ahanmisi at point guard vs. the Wildcats (16-12, 6-11). It's an understandable move, because the Gophers probably will have to win four or five in a row to hear their name called on Selection Sunday.
The Gophers will win because ... Players will be pumped to play their natural positions, assuming Smith moves Ahanmisi to point guard. Hoffarber had a huge game against Northwestern (20 points) in the last meeting. He will be hard to stop on the wing, especially for the worst defense in the Big Ten (50.9 field-goal percentage allowed).
The Gophers will lose because ... They haven't been able to finish games. They have been in a lot of close ones, but something wacky happens to this team in the closing minutes. It also doesn't help that they might make another change to their starting lineup. It would be their eighth starting lineup this season, which won't boost chemistry. Plus, they have struggled to stop three-point shooters with their 2-3 zone. Northwestern has hit more treys (152) than any other team in the league.
MYRON P. MEDCALF