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Big Ten Tournament 2011: Game One Preview - Northwestern vs. Minnesota

We're an hour away from tip-off at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, and the first game of the day will feature the Minnesota Golden Gophers and the Northwestern Wildcats in a battle for the right to move on and play top-seeded Ohio State tomorrow afternoon.

I will say that one side is a bit more confident than the other in this one. . .and it isn't the side that you might expect. First, the Northwestern perspective from our friends at Sippin' On Purple.

Minnesota has been absolutely slipping and sliding, with only one win since playing NU all the way back in January, seriously struggling without Al Nolen. Nolen dressed up for their last conference game but didn't play - the Cats better hope that stays the same, because Maverick "You big stud" Ahanmisi is pretty bad in comparison. On NU's side of the MASH unit, Mike Capocci and JerShon Cobb are out and doubtful, respectively, leaving the question: does NU go with a six-man rotation in a tournament that they'll need to win four times back-to-back in order to win or give meaningful minutes to Nick Fruendt, or even walk-on Reggie Hearn? Peljusic is already kind of an option with Mirkovic and Curletti's tendency to get into foul trouble. I think the best option is to stick with your top six and hope Juice and Shurna have enough in the tank to pull it out - this game is more important because of NIT connotations than games that could hypothetically happen down the line, so, play to win the game.

Here's what The Daily Gopher has to say about Minnesota's chances in this one.

It is pretty simple, Northwestern shoots a high percentage, scores efficiently and doesn't turn the ball over.  Everything else, they aren't very good at.  By the efficiency numbers they are the worst defensive team in the Big Ten and 10th by all rebounding criteria.  Against this defense our 17.6% three-point shooting in the last NU game is unacceptable.  On their home court the Wildcats made seven more threes than we did, those 21 points are hard to overcome on the road. Even at The Barn the Gophers only made two threes compared to NU's 12 but they also hacked us and our 31 points from the free throw line was too much for the Wildcats.

I really should give the Wildcats more respect but teams that can't defend and don't rebound well, I tend to not hold in very high esteem.  I expect those three point numbers to be much closer in today's Gopher win.  I also expect that we will dominate the glass in today's Gopher win.

There you have it, folks. You can hit either of the links above to hit the Game Threads from each SB Nation site and discuss the game with your fellow Wildcat or Gopher fans.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.