Minnesota (6-9; 0-3 in the Big Ten) vs. Northwestern (13-3; 1-2) at Williams Arena
Saturday, Jan. 9 at 1:30 p.m. CT
TV: Big Ten Network
Spread: Minnesota +1.5
Minnesota recruit Amir Coffey is anxious to play for the Gophers -- and so are their fans.
Previewing both teams here.
Pitino says he sees "upward trajectory" in Big Ten play, here.
This week's national notebook here, on Iowa's turnaround from an ugly exhibition loss, complete with the latest power poll and lots of thoughts from around college basketball.
Three storylines to watch on a cold, snowy afternoon:
Northwestern is the Minnesota of the future? Wait, what? OK, that’s not exactly what he meant, but coach Richard Pitino did lay out some perceived similarities between the current Gophers squad and the struggles Northwestern has gone through in the first two years (29 total wins) under coach Chris Collins-- and the improvement the Wildcats COULD be enjoying after losing just one game in the non-conference and how that might look like the Gophers next year. I’m not sure how much joy that will bring Minnesota fans given that the Wildcats have just lost two consecutive league games and haven’t proven capable of an NCAA tournament charge just yet, but hey, his comparison, not mine. “They were really close, just like you could say with us,” Pitino said. “We’ve been really close and we’ve lost seven of eight. We’re enduring some things that next year we’re going to be better because of it. I look at a Northwestern and where they’re sitting and they’ve got guys playing confidently... they’ve got two good road wins and have done a lot of things where they’ve broken through where they couldn’t last year. Chris has done a good job with them, building them. They endured some tough times, kind of like us, but they’re going to be better for it.”
Hot Joey, take two. Senior Joey King finally broke his three-point shooting slump (7-for-29 in seven games, good for 24.1 percent) at Penn State, when he nailed four of seven threes and finished with 22 points overall in the 86-77 loss. On Friday, Pitino said he thought King’s previous struggles were for two reasons: because opponents are switching screens on the Gophers leading scorer and because Minnesota guards weren’t doing a good enough job of spreading the ball around and setting up King, who is so reliant on the catch-and-shoot. But Pitino thinks Tuesday’s .521 percent shooting performance from the field was an indication that the Gophers offense is beginning to work more efficiently. “If our guards are doing their jobs of driving closeouts, creating rotations, then we’re going to get King open looks,” he said. “When he has open looks he’s going to make them 50 percent of the time. So I think a lot of it comes with running the offense first.”
Pardon him. When Northwestern center Alex Olah went down indefinitely with a foot injury at the end of last month, it seemed like disastrous news for the Wildcats. But in Olah’s absence, Northwestern has found a new revelation – at least in a small, four-game sample size in freshman Dererk Pardon. In the last three games, the 6-8 big man has compiled 46 points and 32 rebounds while coming off the bench. So far, Pardon has shown the capability to finish strong at the rim and change games with his length and athleticism. Sound like anyone you know? Pardon’s matchup with Minnesota freshman Jordan Murphy – a similarly undersized but effective post man who has slightly more time to grow his game – will be one of the more fun elements to watch today.
7 –Assists per game for Bryant McIntosh, which ranks the Wildcats’ point guard ninth nationally. The sophomore is leading Northwestern with 15.9 points a game and has transformed himself into one of the better guards in the Big Ten this season.
My prediction: Northwestern guards push the ball and get hot from three-point range as the Wildcats cruise to their second win.
Northwestern 76, Minnesota 65