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It's getting to be that time again when teams need to start building their case for bracket eligibility. This game is a great example as Minnesota sits right on the bubble. A loss here for the Gophers would likely put them out of the tournament, while a win could further their case. As for Iowa, a conference road win never looks bad on a resume.
Minnesota already has wins against Ohio State and Wisconsin and this one would form a nice trio if anyone doubted their NCAA tourney worthiness. Then again losses against Northwestern, Purdue and Illinois don't help all that much.
The Hawkeyes have an extremely busy week with games on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday so if they could start that stretch with a win, the better. They are coming off a home loss to Wisconsin, but it should be noted even with seven losses this year, Iowa has yet to lose in back-to-back games.
In the first game between these teams the Hawkeyes dominated the second half scoring 53 points in a 94-73 win. They won in pretty much every facet of the game including shooting, free throws, rebounding and turnovers. The good news for Iowa is that they didn't need Roy Devyn Marble to carry the entire offense. While he had 16 points, four other players finished in double figures including two players off the bench. The depth of Iowa is a problem for most teams even though the Gophers go eight deep.
Minnesota's offense is driven by its great guard play and will need plenty in this game. Transfer Deandre Mathieu has been a huge help at point guard this season as he can create so many things off the dribble. Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins round out the scoring, but Austin is averaging less than seven points per game over his last five. That's not what you want from the third best scorer on the team.
The Gophers don't do anything extremely well, but they do a lot of things above average. Outside of that last Iowa matchup, they usually have a tough defense to break down. Offensively they struggle often and don't have a go-to player in the post which hurts.
Iowa's flexibility is one of the reasons why they are so good and why they beat the Gophers last game. Marble is the top scorer with 16.6 points per game, but they have a few other guys that can go off at any time. Fans would probably like to see more of an attacking mentality from Aaron White, but he usually never forces a bad shot. Gabriel Olaseni and Josh Oglesby killed Minnesota in the first meeting and are two players that continue to play great minutes off the bench. The list goes on with Jarrod Uthoff and Mike Gesell who are actually the third and fourth leading scorers on the team.
Minnesota knows what's at stake with this game, but do they have it in them to pull out a win? The Gophers have just two wins in their last eight games. They'll need to find some consistency on offense or the Hawkeyes will continue their streak of no back-to-back losses this season.
Predicted Score - Iowa 77 Minnesota 72
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