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Mid-day talker: Is this the year the Gophers are finally better than the Badgers ... in basketball?

Posted by: Michael Rand under Gophers Updated: November 7, 2012 - 12:43 PM

Much has been made about the inequity between the Wisconsin football program and the Gophers football program over, roughly, the last 15-20 years. It's really not close; the Badgers have dominated the season series (the Gophers are 2-15 since 1995) and have had far more success on a national stage.

These schools are often compared because of the geographic rivalry and also because, the theory goes, if you can win at Wisconsin you should be able to win here.

In football, the turnaround is tougher.

But we want to present to you a statistic that -- if you root for the Gophers -- is just as sickening: The last time the Gophers finished above the Badgers in the Big Ten men's BASKETBALL standings was 1997-98 (a year technically vacated by the fraud scandal, but one which counted on the court at the time). That season, Wisconsin was 3-13 in conference play; Minnesota was 6-10. Since then? Nothing.

As such, we ask: Is this the season that finally changes?

Both teams figure to be in that 4-7 range in a top-heavy Big Ten, and both should have NCAA tournament berths as their minimum goal. But we will note a couple of short capsules by ESPN's Jay Bilas -- who has Minnesota at No. 37 and Wisconsin at No. 49 in his preseason 1-68 rankings -- when it comes to both teams:

MINNESOTA: Trevor Mbakwe is back after a difficult summer, and he should be the top rebounder and inside scorer in the Big Ten. Rodney Williams brings unmatched athleticism and Andre Hollins was superb in the NIT. Minnesota has had some bad breaks the past two seasons, and needs to stay healthy.

WISCONSIN: Injuries are keeping Bo Ryan and the Badgers out of The Bilas Index top 30. Without Josh Gasser running the point and with Mike Bruesewitz hurt, Wisconsin will take a step back. Ryan will find a way to plug the holes, but it will be difficult without his full cast.

If Tubby Smith wants to endear himself to fans in Year 6, he would be well advised to snap a three-game losing streak to the Badgers (which was preceded by a three-game winning streak) and have his squad finish above the Badgers for the first time in 15 years. As such, circle Jan. 26 and Feb. 14 on your calendars if you haven't already.

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