13 February 2010

Countdown to Minnesota at Northwestern

Minnesota travels to The Welsh to take on Northwestern at 4PM Central on Sunday February 14. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network and radio coverage is on WCPT and wgnradio.com.

This game is a rematch of a game at the Barn last month. Minnesota (14-9, 5-6 Big Ten) won that game in the waning moments on the strength of Blake Hoffarber's sharp shooting. Northwestern (16-8, 5-7 Big Ten) withstood several Hoffarber body blows but ultimately came up just four points short.

Both teams limp into this game with their NCAA aspirations in dire straits. In their previous games NU was embarrassed at Iowa while Minnesota also laid an egg in a 71-63 home loss to Michigan. The talking heads have varied opinions on NU's chances, but the general idea is that NU will need to go either 10-8 or 11-7 in the conference to be in the discussion. With five additional conference games including a trip to Madison year remaining on NU's schedule, NU must win this game to keep its at-large berth hopes alive.

Minnesota also has to be looking at this game as a must win. Like the Wildcats, the Gophers will need to be either 10-8 or 11-7 to be in the discussion. That means 1 or 2 more losses in conference. The Gophers have three difficult games left including a trip to Illinois and home matches against Wisconsin and Purdue, and those games alone are likely to account for those losses.

What to expect? NU played well in the first game and handled Minnesota's athleticism well. Ironically it was the lesser-athletic suburban driveway bomber who ultimately thwarted NU bid for a big road victory. The switch of venue gives us reason for optimism. That is if NU students shows up in full voice. Here's to hoping tomorrow's game has an atmosphere similar to the Illini and Purdue games.