Minnesota Golden Gophers
Current record: 19-12
Big Ten record: 8-10 (plus 1-0 in BTT)
Current RPI: 101
Current Sagarin: 62
2006-07 record: 9-22
2006-07 RPI: 191
2006-07 Sagarin: 167
Series: IU leads 87-63
Last IU win: 3/5/08 (69-55 in Bloomington)
Last Minnesota win: 1/29/06 (61-42 in Minneapolis)
Big Ten Tournament meetings: 1 (2005: #5 Minnesota 71, #4 IU 55)
TV: 9 pm Friday, Big Ten Network
IU's last win came just over a week ago against the Gophers, and now IU must try to beat the Gophers for the third time this season. IU has accomplished that feat only once during the Big Ten Tournament era: in 1997-98, IU beat the 11 seed Ohio State three times. Before that, IU hadn't defeated a Big Ten team three times in a season since 1976, when IU beat Michigan twice in the regular season and then in the NCAA title game. During the regular season, IU was 5-0 against the remaining teams in IU's half of the bracket, so any team IU might play in the next couple of rounds will be highly motivated (IU was 4-3 against the remaining teams on the other side and 5-1 against the eliminated). Although IU is 5-0 against Minnesota, Purdue, and Illinois this year, IU is a combined 1-7 against those teams in the BTT. The only time IU and Minnesota have met in the BTT was in 2005, when "we were the four seed. We were the four seed. We were the four seed." Am I imagining this odd Mike Davis press conference moment? I try to find independent documentation on Google, and I keep finding this blog. Humor me.
The game in Minneapolis this season was down to the wire, and Minnesota was ahead by a point in the game in Bloomington with about 8 minutes left in the second half before IU outscored the Gophers by 15 down the stretch. Here's my recap of the last game. Most significantly, IU took good care of the ball against the Gophers compared to the turnover-fest in game one. Looking back at my recap of game one, my recap may seem overly giddy, but at that point Minnesota was 12-4 and thinking NCAA Tournament. The Gophers managed to vastly improve on last season, but struggled against the upper tier of the conference. Minnesota was 0-7 against the top four in the conference and 7-3 against everyone else. The killer games, the games that mean Minnesota likely has to win the tournament to get to the tournament, were the two losses to Illinois. Absent those losses, Minnesota would 20-10 (10-8) and somewhere on the bubble, at least with a chance to make the tournament with an upset or two of a top four team.
In any event, the Gophers are what they are, a solid, improved team that certainly was competitive with IU for about 70 of the 80 minutes they have played this year. IU is struggling, but unquestionably can beat the Gophers again. At this point, no outcome would surprise me. IU could win 3 in a row or could lose by 20 tomorrow night. We will see.