Must-Win Non-Conference Game: UVA

The Gopher's non-conference schedule is packed with interesting and challenging match ups. One such game against the Virginia Cavaliers can be considered the "must-win" game before the Gophers start their treacherous Big Ten season.

The Gophers will face Virginia on November, 29th as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The Gophers have not fared well in the challenge in previous years. They have only won once since they beat Georgia Tech in December of 2002. Last season, the Big Ten had their first victory over the ACC without the help of Minnesota who were upset by the Miami Hurricanes by a score of 58-63. Against the Virginia Cavaliers, the Gophers will need to prove that they can compete with teams from elite conferences like the ACC.

Minnesota must win this game due to the fact that it will be a nationally televised game. Winning in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge could go a long way in getting the Gophers into March Madness later in the season.

The Cavaliers struggled last season to finish out the year. They started the season winning 12 of their first 16 games before losing 12 of their final 15. Virginia had a disastrous season statistically, ranking last in the ACC in points per game, rebounds per game and blocks per game.

To add to their woes, the Cavaliers will not have the services of 6-foot-6 guard Sylven Landesberg who averaged an impressive 17.2 points per game last season. Tubby Smith's defense should be able to quell the offensive attack of Virginia. On the offensive side of the ball, the Gophers will need to use the size and rebounding of Colton Iverson and Trevor Mbakwe to dominate in the paint. The athleticism of Al Nolen and Rodney Williams will also be used to create a fast paced game that the Gophers should excel at.

The game against Virginia is a must-win for the Gophers because another loss in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge could have long lasting implications for the remainder of the season.

To share your thoughts on this article please go to Gopher Basketball Forum.

Gopher Illustrated Top Stories