Today's game vs. Michigan ((9-6 overall; 2-1 in the Big Ten) tips at noon CT. Watch live on ESPNU or listen on 1500-a.m.
In today's Star Tribune:
Five things to watch as the Gophers try to stop an 0-3 conference skid:
LeVert Alert. Michigan's junior wing hasn't exactly been the most steady presence for the Wolverines this year, but after Tuesday's win at Penn State, he's showing hints that he's ready to break out of his slump. He's scored in double digits just four times in the last six games, but in two of the last three, including an 18-point performance in Happy Valley earlier this week. There is a clear talent differential between him and anything Minnesota could throw at him, so if LeVert gets going, the Gophers could find themselves adjusting a la D'Angelo Russell once more.
D boards and scoring in transition. It has been well established that this Gophers team is never going to be great, or probably even respectable, on the defensive boards. But Michigan is one of the worst offensive rebounding teams in the nation, managing just 25.3 percent of available boards because John Beilein has freely admitted it's not a priority. Don't be surprised if Minnesota's defensive rebounding numbers pop today, but will it be beneficial? Beilein has his team eschew offensive boards in order to ensure opponents don't score in transition, Minnesota's bread and butter. If the Gophers get more D boards but can't consistently finish on the run, they won't be much better off.
Mo Walker, X factor. Michigan's interior defense is pretty much non-existent, so Minnesota would do well to pound the ball inside to the big man in the middle -- the Gophers' one surefire advantage. Bonus: Walker has been the only consistent and reliable asset Minnesota has had in the conference slate. If the Gophers can shoot well enough to keep him open, they've got a shot.
Ballhandling. Minnesota's steal numbers are still lofty, despite the overall defense crashing and burning in stretches throughout the last three games. But one of the "little things" Michigan's young troops have really done well this year is avoid turnovers. Can the Gophers harass the Wolverines' guards enough to create an advantage? My guess is no -- the Michigan lost to an aggressive Villanova team that likes to press, but a) Villanova was just better and b) Michigan only had 11 turnovers, hardly the top blame factor for the five point loss.
Threes. Michigan is very capable of getting hot from beyond the arc, where about 43 percent of its offense comes from. In the last three games, the Wolverines has made at least eight (only Maryland managed that many among Minnesota's Big Ten opponents thus far). The Gophers should watch out specifically for freshman Aubrey Dawkins, who is knocking down 45 percent of his shots from downtown.