11-seed Minnesota meets 14-seed Rutgers at the United Center tonight at 6 p.m. CT. Watch on Big Ten Network or listen live on 1500-a.m.
Five things to watch as the Gophers try to extend their season:
Energy. Minnesota should win this game and win it easily as Rutgers is a pretty bad basketball team. But the same could have been said about Penn State on Sunday and the Gophers came out looking like they weren't interested in the matchup. Didn't think the Nittany Lions could beat Minnesota at home? Think again. Rutgers is another level of bad but the Gophers aren't above an upset on a neutral court. Minnesota needs to come out raring to go if it wants to ensure avoiding another chapter to its stunning collapse.
Streaky Hollins. In the last four games, we've seen senior guard Andre Hollins score just two points at Wisconsin, rebound for a 17-point performance at Michigan State, nod off again for just five points in the Gophers' biggest game of the year, vs. the Badgers again at home and score 13 points in the first half vs. Penn State and then disappear entirely. The Gophers might be able to get past Rutgers without him, but they won't go far after that if their veteran doesn't figure it out.
Break from perimeter game? One of the big ways inferior teams have managed to top the Gophers this year is with three-point shooting, something Minnesota's defense seems incapable of stopping. The Gophers should be rejoicing then, that Rutgers really can't shoot the long ball much at all -- the Scarlett Knights are averaging 28.9 percent from beyond the arc, with only Nebraska keeping them out of last place in that regard. As a bonus, if Minnesota were to advance, its next opponent, Ohio State, also isn't much of a three-point shooting threat. There is opportunity here, even for a struggling Gophers team.
Mack n' Jack. Minnesota didn't do a great job of slowing Rutgers' senior-junior duo last time around, when the Gophers beat the Scarlett Knights 89-80 in their only meeting this season. Point guard Myles Mack had 26 points and eight assists in that one (although he did have seven turnovers) and big man Kadeem Jack added 19 points and five rebounds. If the pair get a little more supporting help this time around, such performances could be deadly.
Score. If the Gophers take care of business, this one should be a blowout. But Minnesota has the tendency to play up or down to its opponents -- thus all the close games. Eek one out and the Gophers move on, but without much momentum.