Minnesota-Northwestern Basketball Preview

The Minnesota Gophers basketball team has lost back-to-back overtime heartbreakers at home. Now, they have to go on the unfriendly road to try to win their first Big Ten contest as they face Northwestern at Welsh-Ryan at 3 p.m. today. The Wildcats are also coming off a tough overtime loss, falling to Penn State 63-61.

Northwestern is 7-10 overall and 2-4 in Big Ten play. They are allowing a Big Ten worst 36.5 rebounds per game, while corralling only 22.8 boards. They are being outrebounded by 13.7 rebounds in conference play. The next worst Big Ten squad is Purdue at 2.5.

 

The Wildcats are allowing a Big Ten worst 50.7% shooting from the field and lack a shotblocking threat as they are rejecting a conference low 0.8 shots per game. Minnesota is averaging 4.2 rejections.

 

The Wildcats are not a deep team, relying on an eight-man rotation with three players averaging more than 35 minutes per game.   

 

They are paced by senior guard Jitim Young, who is averaging a team-best 17.4 points per game. He is shooting 53.65 from the field and 36.4% from three-point range. The 6-2 guard is leading the team in rebounding with 6.3 rebounds per game. Young has started all 105 games of his career. He is second among active Big Ten all-time scoring leaders with 1,304 points, behind Bernard Robinson Jr. of Michigan. Minnesota's Michael Bauer (1,077) is fourth on the list, while current Gopher and former Wildcat Ben Johnson is sixth with 1,059 points; 669 of which he scored in two years at Northwestern.

 

Vedran Vukusic was redshirted last year, due to a shoulder injury. The 6-8 sophomore is second on the team in scoring (14.3) and rebounding (4.1). The Croatian native is an excellent outside threat, making 40.7% from beyond the arc.

 

T.J. Parker, the younger brother of San Antonio Spur Tony, led the Wildcats in three-pointers as a freshman and was second behind Young in scoring. However, his numbers have dropped as a sophomore from 11.4 points per game and 45.2% shooting from the field and 38.7% from three-point range last year to 9.5 points and 41.7% shooting and 27.9% from three-point range this season.

 

Fellow sophomore Mohamed Hachad has started every game as the Wildcats use a three-guard attack. The Canadian native is averaging 7.6 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.

 

Davor Duvanic, a 6-8 junior has made great strides this season. The Croatian has raised his scoring from 2.8 points per game last season to 7.3 this year.

 

Evan Seacat, a 6-2 sophomore, is primarily an outside shooter. Twenty-eight of his 37 field goals have been three-pointers. He is averaging 6.3 points per game off the bench.

 

Northwestern slipped last season after finishing 16-13 and 7-9 in conference play in 2002 to 12-17 and 3-13 in the Big Ten. Fourth-year head coach Bill Carmody, who led Princeton to two NCAA and two N.I.T. appearances in four years, has got the team to buy into his passing, three-point style, but it is difficult for the Wildcats to stay with their more talented Big Ten counterparts.

 

These two teams met three times last season. The Gophers knocked off NU in both regular-season meetings (74-57 in Minneapolis, 73-61 in Evanston), but the Wildcats got revenge with a 76-64 win in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, eliminating any chance the Gophers had of making the NCAA Tournament field.

 

Northwestern head coach Bill Carmody was previously at Princeton, which played the Gophers early in the season, losing 57-53.

 

Minnesota has had consecutive tough games and desperately needs a win. However, they are 0-6 away from Williams Arena. The Gophers have played better recently and could come away with their first Big ten win.

 

PREDICTION

MINNESOTA 68, NORTHWESTERN 62


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