Minnesota (6-6) tips off against Ohio State (8-5) at 6 p.m. CT at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Watch the game on BTN or listen live on 1500-a.m.
Taking a look at both teams, here.
And from yesterday, freshman Kevin Dorsey’s status is still up in the air for tonight.
Three storylines to watch as the Gophers kick off a new season of Big Ten play …
Rolling with Murphy. Minnesota coach Richard Pitino doesn’t like to talk about starting lineups too much for some reason, but he made a notable switch against Milwaukee last time out, giving freshman forward Jordan Murphy his first career start in place of the Charles Buggs/ Dupree McBrayer revolving door. The Gophers didn’t win that one, of course, tumbling 74-65 in their third home loss of the year. But Murphy put up his fifth double-double in six games, reinforcing the notion that he's the bright spot on a team that's been through the wringer lately. As long as Dorsey is out (and it’s my guess he’ll be sitting again tonight with that left heel injury), Pitino will have to stretch his short rotation, and squeezing the most out of his best player seems like a good place to start. Murphy played 37 minutes last game, something he’ll have to adjust to, he admitted afterward, but it’s worth a couple of shots. And against a big, athletic team like Ohio State, his length and bounce will be necessary.
Fresh start? Sure, if you want to be optimistic. Things didn’t go so well for Minnesota in November and December, so players and Pitino were talking yesterday about the relief of resetting to 0-0 in conference play heading into Wednesday. Senior Joey King pointed out that there will be “fewer surprises” now that opponents will be playing more “traditional basketball.” Hm. The past is the past and the future is one giant opportunity in which anything can happen. Right? “There are always several teams every year that have a bad non-conference and then seem to string it together in the conference,” Pitino said. That’s true. The only problem is, the Gophers haven’t shown any hints that they’ve got a revolution like that up their sleeves and we’re only now hitting the real challenges. Pat South Dakota State and Milwaukee on the back all you like, both of those teams are getting run over by any number of Big Ten squads. I admire the staunch optimism, but it’s not a style issue. Is Minnesota capable of winning tonight? Sure. Anything can happen with squads infused with as much youth as these two are. Are the Gophers severely out-matched talent-wise? Yes they are. They head into this thing 10.5-point dogs, which might be kind. But it would certainly be a welcomed infusion of confidence for a limping bunch.
Youth vs. Youth. All year, Pitino has preached that he and the team are not going to use youth as an excuse while not-so-subtly slipping lots of references to just that in nearly every news conference. Well, tonight is one night Minnesota really can’t use youth as an excuse, because as it happens Ohio State is even younger. Analyst Ken Pomeroy ranks the Buckeyes 346th out of 351 teams in terms of “experience” with six freshman and four sophomores gracing the roster. So, it’s likely we’ll see some bobbles and miscues out there tonight – the question is probably which team makes more of them and which team rises above it. "They’re a young team too," King said. "They make freshman mistakes just like our team does. It’s going to be a great matchup. They went through some early struggles just like we have. It’s going to come down to who’s the hungrier team. Obviously we’re going to come out, play as hard as we can and try to steal one on the road."
0 – The number of times Minnesota has won at Value City Arena since 2005.
62.9 – Points per game that OSU has allowed this year, putting its scoring defense at 28th nationally.
PREDICTION: 76 Ohio State, 62 Minnesota