7 p.m. vs. Rutgers at Madison Square Garden
BTN • 100.3-FM
Rematch with new personnel
Preview: The Gophers (15-16, 4-14 Big Ten) have the 11th seed and open the Big Ten tournament Wednesday against 14th-seeded Rutgers (13-18, 3-15) in New York. After the regular season-ending 84-60 loss at Purdue, two starters — guard Nate Mason (hip) and center Bakary Konate (flu) — missed practice this week. The Gophers are playing for Mason, Konate and fellow senior Gaston Diedhiou to extend their college careers. Richard Pitino has won his first game in the Big Ten tournament in three of his first four seasons at the U, including in the 2017 quarterfinals against Michigan State. The Gophers defeated Rutgers 89-67 at home Dec. 3, but they were ranked No. 12 in the nation and had Reggie Lynch (expelled) and Amir Coffey (out with shoulder surgery) at the time. The Scarlet Knights enter the postseason with 10 losses in their past 11 games. Their last victory was 67-58 in overtime against Northwestern at home Feb. 13. Minnesota and Rutgers also met in the Big Ten tournament in 2015, with the Gophers winning 80-68.
Players to watch: Mason’s 18.6 points per game in Big Ten play this season was the highest scoring average for a Gophers point guard in conference games since Eric Hill’s 19.7 in 1969-70. Mason was snubbed for all-conference honors Monday, but he put up 25 points or more five times this season, including 26 points in the last meeting with Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights have three senior starters in Deshawn Freeman, Jake Dadika and Mike Williams. But junior guard Corey Sanders leads them in scoring (14.1) and assists (3.1) this season.
Numbers: Second-year Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell’s team ranks 13th nationally and first in the Big Ten in offensive rebounding (13.3) and 17th nationally and second in the league in scoring defense (64.5 points allowed).