Tomorrow, the country's No. 6 team and the Big Ten's likely title winner, Wisconsin, comes to the Barn.
Also showing up? A potential model, at least in the eyes of some fans, for Minnesota's potential rise to relevancy.
The obvious comparisons are there. Wisconsin, like Minnesota, is located in a frigid tundra. Wisconsin, like Minnesota, often recruits pedestrian classes.
But what's made the Badgers consistently good -- and now great -- over the years is coaching and player development.
Just take a peek at Wisconsin 7-footer Frank Kaminsky. Just two years ago, as a sophomore, Kaminsky was averaging 4.2 points and 1.8 rebounds a game. Now, he's blossomed (perhaps a better word is morphed) into the favorite to win national Player of the Year this month.
"We've got [Minnesota centers] Elliott Eliason and Mo [Walker] trying to spin dribble, shot fake, shoot threes in practice -- it doesn't quite look the same," coach Richard Pitino said of preparing for the Badgers' versatile big man. "Because there aren't a lot of Kaminskys out there."
No. That much is obvious. There are, however, a lot more guys in the recruiting pool who represent what Kaminsky once was: a raw, gangly guy with lots of size and lots of passion.
The good news? The Gophers seem to be heavy on those. This season, we've gotten our first glimpses of 6-11 Bakary Konate and 6-9 Gaston Diedhiou. Both are inexperienced and still uncomfortable with the American game, having last played in Europe and Africa. But both also have great frames and strength and, seemingly, a lot of upside. Add to that mix 6-foot-10 incoming freshman Jonathan Nwankwo, and the Gophers' frontcourt certainly has room to grow (a nice way of saying its rawer than steak tartare).
"I think guys get too much credit for player development -- coaches," Pitino said. "The guys, in my opinion, that are willing to get better and willing to work, and have great upside, get better. Some have a higher ceiling that other guys."
Recruiting to the future and not the present can be tricky. While guards develop more in high school and AAU, big men traditionally are late bloomers. So targeting big men that will flourish later requires looking at different things.
"Just because of timing," Pitino said. "Because big guys in high school never get the ball, they just don't, they get fouled all the time...I think more than anything when you're looking at big guys, do they love the game? Do they have upside? Do they have good hands and good feet?"
The Gophers coach believes that the value in the three of his young big guys lies in the road ahead. Still, he urges fans to have patience, a lot of it. He points to Northwestern junior Alex Olah, who has made steady improvements each season and is now averaging 11.8 points and 6.8 rebounds a game.
"There are not a lot of high school, ready-made big guys," the coach said. "[Duke freshman center] Jahlil Okafor -- not a lot of him. Guys that are ready to go...I just think it takes a little bit longer with big guys, you've got to be really, really patient with them. And that's why I'm excited about Bakary and Gas because you know they've got a lot of room to grow."
Wisconsin, over the years, has shown a knack for wringing that growth out of the players they get. Minnesota, meanwhile, hasn't had an NBA draft pick in ten years.
Still, Pitino isn't jumping at the blueprint. Success, he believes, goes far beyond the progress of a handful of players.
"Everybody seems to compare us to Wisconsin," he said. "Ever since I've been here that seems to be the trend and I don't know why. Everyone seems to have the philosophy 'if they do it, why can't we do it?' I don't know why people keep saying that.
"It takes time. It takes a lot of investing. It takes patience."