Central Street: Northwestern-Minnesota

Our previews, prediction coverage and analysis on Game Day for Northwestern basketball.

Minnesota travels to Northwestern on Sunday, just more than three weeks after the Wildcats pulled off the road stunner in Minneapolis. That marked the end of NU's impressive win streak, as they pulled out five of seven conference games between Jan. 12 and Feb. 1. Now, with Minnesota returning—Andre Hollins in hand for this one—the Wildcats look to continue their burst of program relevance at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Our previews and predictions are below.

PREDICTIONS

MEDLINE: Minnesota 84, Northwestern 64

It'll be an entirely different Minnesota team with Andre Hollins. They can run, they can play offense and stretch the Northwestern defense past a comfortable level. The Wildcats could easily have lost confidence, or "come back down to earth," following their recent two-game losing streak. And unless Alex Olah can consistently outmuscle guys on the interior, they'll come up on the losing end. The reality is that they lack the depth to surprise opponents with offensive sets. If the staunch defense can't hold up, these games are over, quickly.

GOLDSTEIN: Minnesota 66, Northwestern 55

The Big Ten's fourth-ranked scoring offense won't be caught shooting blanks again. The Golden Gophers slumped to 21 percent shooting from behind the arc in the Feb. 1 upset, and NU has struggled to defend the perimeter in losses to Nebraska and MSU. Minnesota's a much better rebounding team, too, even when playing their three-guard lineup. Meanwhile, can the Wildcats really rely on efficient shooting from anyone other than Crawford, Cobb or Demps? The duo scored 58 of NU's 70 on Thursday. This is the one where the wheels finally start to wobble.

INSIDER COLUMN: Current Northwestern team feeding future hopes

"In recent games, Northwestern has been winning, and that's the result of players progressing quicker than we expected. Cobb was considered unproven; Demps was the most criticized player on Northwestern because of his tendency to "chuck." The relevance of this season—which lasted for longer than it should have—might end tomorrow. But the developments have no way of disappearing. Even in light of recent struggles, Northwestern is the definition of a team one or two pieces away from the postseason."

INSIDER NOTEBOOK: Collins knows NU ‘not there yet'

"It's extraordinarily telling that after Northwestern's Thursday loss to Michigan State, Chris Collins said outright that he could only play six or seven guys. Aside from the obvious five candidates-including bench threat Tre Demps-that list holds Kale Abrahamson and Nikola Cerina. Not Nate Taphorn or Dave Sobolewski. This is the only current worrying storyline of an already successful season for Collins. His one true freshman can't fit in at all, lost on defense and hardly better on offense. And the once-starting point guard has lost his touch to the point of being constantly benched. The latter's a bit depressing. Judging by Collins' comments, though, we can't expect much change moving forward in terms of the rotation. He relies on Drew Crawford and Jershon Cobb to play ridiculous minute totals, and that can result in brutal fatigue."

Northwestern and Minnesota tip off at 5 p.m. CT Sunday in Evanston. Stay tuned to PurpleWildcats.com for in-game coverage and analysis of Northwestern basketball.


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