* in the past two days I've heard from a team source that both Elliott Eliason and Oto Osenieks are possibilties to be inserted into the starting lineup, but right now it seems more likely that Osenieks could get the nudge.
How much does this game mean?
Just ask ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, who currently has both the Gophers and Northwestern in the “first four out” category of his NCAA tournament bracket.
At this stage of the game, a loss would look bad for both teams, who each have just five wins in the conference and five games left to prove they belong in that illustrious field.
So you can probably expect both teams to be playing with some urgency.
“They’re like we are – it’s a must-win, a must-game if they expect to get to postseason play or gain some momentum,” coach Tubby Smith said.
“They’re sitting at 15-9 and we’re 17-9 so there’s a lot to play for, both only five wins in the league. And they’re tough to beat, we know that. But again, we’ve got to go there ready to play.”
Three things that will be key in the Gophers’ coming out on top:
1. Wanting it more. One of the things that has hurt the Gophers in the past couple games is those 10-minute stretches when the apparently space out. If this team could focus and play with the same intensity for a full 40 minutes, it’s no telling what they could do.
2. Rebounding. Smith said one of the reasons he wanted to again shakeup the lineup was because he felt the team needed to manufacture more work on the boards – an area they’ve fallen short in recently.
3. Playing against the zone. It’s no secret that this is one of the Gophers’ weaknesses. In their last game against Northwestern, the impact of the Wildcats’ 1-3-1 was lessened because Northwestern waited so long to use it. The Gophers’ can’t expect the same grace this time around.