Big Ten Schedule Preview

The Gophers are entering the Big Ten season with 11 wins and a confidence that is hard to match. Minnesota will need to continue their strong play if they want to have a successful conference season. Let's look at two key games that Minnesota will play during their conference schedule.

Most important game: Although it may be cliché to say, the Gophers' most important conference game of the year will be their Big Ten opener against Wisconsin. Minnesota has taken care of the Badgers recently, winning the past three meetings between the two teams.

This meeting that will take place on December 28th will be the most important game on Minnesota's schedule. This is true because it will be the Gophers' first real test on the road. Eight of Minnesota's games have been at Williams Arena with only one game against St. Joes at an opponent's home floor.

The Kohl Center is one of the most difficult places to play in the country. Since Bo Ryan has coaches Wisconsin, the Badgers are 143-11 on their home floor. If the Gophers can get a road win on a hostile floor, it could easily set the tone for the rest of Big Ten season.

Potential trap game: While historically the Wildcats of Northwestern have been a relatively weak team in the Big Ten, the Gophers would be wise to not overlook this tough squad when they meet late in the season on March 2nd.

The Wildcats have started the season in impressive 9-1 including a thrashing of Georgia Tech in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge by a score of 91-71. Northwestern is boasting an impressive offensive team that is fifth in the country in assists per game with 18.9. Another reason for their success has been the play of John Shurna who is averaging 23.3 points per game and is shooting 62.3% from deep.

The Gophers might want to overlook the Wildcats in anticipation of post season play but this could be very detrimental. A loss to Northwestern late in the season could easily take the wind out the Gophers' sails heading into post season play.

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