This season, both the Illini and the Golden Gophers began as unranked Big Ten teams. Now, each team is considered a contender, both with 14 wins and only a combined three losses.
Notes (per Minnesota sports information):
- The Gophers will have an opportunity to start the conference season 3-0 for the first time since the 1974-75 team also started 3-0. The 1996-97 team started 4-0 but that season has since been vacated.
- Minnesota will head into the matchup against Illinois ranked No. 8 in the latest AP poll. The ranking is the highest the Gophers have been in the Tubby Smith era and also the highest the program has been ranked since the 1981-82 team reached No. 5 in the polls. Minnesota did reach No. 2 during the 1996-97 season but that season has since been vacated.
- Smith currently has 117 wins on the bench at Minnesota, the seventh-most in the history of the program and two shy of passing Dan Monson for sixth on the list. Also, Smith currently has the third-highest winning percentage in team history at .629 (117-69). L.J. Cooke sits atop the Gophers' win list with 250 wins in 28 seasons.
- The Gophers are averaging 41.3 rebounds per game this season, the highest rebounding average in the Tubby Smith era. Also, Minnesota is outrebounding its opponents by 11.1 rpg this season, the highest disparity in the Tubby Smith era and the second-highest in the Big Ten Conference this season. The Gophers lead the conference in offensive rebounds with an average of 16.8 offensive boards per game.
- Minnesota forward Rodney Williams continues to show that he is a well-rounded player. He led the Gophers in most categories last season and is well on his way to duplicating that again this season.
- SeniorTrevor Mbakwe is averaging 19.1 minutes per game this season, as he continues his comeback from major knee surgery last season. Despite it being just over a year since surgery (Dec. 30, 2011), Mbakwe has given Tubby Smith and the his teammates quality minutes through 15 games this season, starting the last three. He will head into Wednesday's matchup averaging 8.7 ppg - fifth highest on the team - a team-highs of 7.7 rpg and 1.5 bpg.
- Minnesota currently has 10 players that are averaging at least 9.0 minutes played per game, led by Rodney Williams who is averaging 28.5 minutes per game.
Andre Hollins - G, Soph., 6-1, 200 - 13.1 ppg, 3.5 apg
Joe Coleman - G, Soph., 6-4, 210 - 9.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg
Austin Hollins - G, Jr., 6-4, 185 - 11.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg
Trevor Mbakwe - F, Sr., 6-8, 245 - 8.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg
Rodney Williams - F, Sr., 6-7, 205 - 12.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg
Off the bench:
Series record: Illinois leads 116-63
Series streak: Minnesota W1
Record @ Champaign: Illinois leads 70-17
Series streak @ Champaign: Illinois W1
Last year's meetings:
ILL 81, MIN 72, 2OT (12/27/11 @ ILL)
MIN 77, ILL 72, OT (1/28/12 @ MIN)
Groce vs. Minnesota: First meeting
"Yeah, they're impressive. It doesn't get any better than No. 1 in the country in offensive rebounding percentage. They're getting 48 percent back on the offensive glass. They're lights out on the glass. Point off turnovers, offensive rebounds, getting to the foul line, all those things they do at a really high level.
"They're deep and they're athletic and they keep coming at you. I think one of the characteristics of (coach Tubby Smith's) teams over the years is they play really hard. They really compete. There's no question about that, watching them on film. He's certainly put that stamp on this ball club as he has his other ball clubs."-- Illinois coach John Groce.