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Wisconsin

vs.

Minnesota

College Basketball Pick

1/21/17

Minnesota is back home after losing a couple road games, the most recent a two-point loss in the final seconds to Penn State. The Gophers were the team to beat early in the Big Ten after a road win at Purdue, but that's no longer the case with three conference losses. Minnesota gets almost a full week off ahead of this game, while Wisconsin had trouble taking down Michigan on Tuesday. For the Gophers to be considered a true challenger, beating Wisconsin needs to be a priority.

Not much can be looked into from previous matchups as Minnesota's team was much different a year ago and lost this game 62-49. The Gophers present a much different test these days with their only loss at The Barn coming in overtime against Michigan State in a game they had a 15-point lead. To beat the veteran-filled team of Wisconsin, it's going to take a full-game effort, something they did against the Boilermakers, scoring 91 points in an overtime win. That win ultimately put Minnesota on the radar and beating Wisconsin would show that it wasn't a fluke.

Outside of their loss at Purdue, Wisconsin has looked like the best team in the conference, although hasn't had much competition. The Badgers did win at Indiana, but the Hoosiers continue to struggle. The Badgers didn't win their toughest games in non-conference play and need to show a bit more before being considered an elite team on a national level. The problem is that there aren't any elite teams in the Big Ten, just good and mediocre ones.

To win this game, Minnesota will have to mirror its offensive effort it had against Purdue. But as it stands, the Gophers are not that efficient offensively and are one of the worst in the conference shooting the ball. Against this Wisconsin defense, there's no reason to believe they'll find their form.

Nate Mason is a great scorer, but is extremely hard to trust as seen in his shooting numbers the last four games at just 13-of-48 from the field. If Mason has another bad day from the floor, it could mean trouble for the Gophers. Outside of him, Jordan Murphy and Reggie Lynch have to be factors on both ends of the floor. Those two will have to deal with Ethan Happ and Nigel Hayes, which says it all. If either Murphy or Lynch get into foul trouble or can't do anything offensively, Minnesota is already in a hole against one of the best frontcourt tandems in the conference. Outside of Mason, Amir Coffey has had some big games, but scored just 10 total in the last two.

Wisconsin is almost the opposite of Minnesota. You almost always know what the Badgers will do, it just depends on if Hayes and Bronson Koenig are hitting their shots. They lead the conference in offensive rebounding percentage, which could be key in this one if Lynch gets into foul trouble. Minnesota's goal will be to not allow open looks to Koenig or Hayes and to win the battle in the paint. From there, they'll hope that guys like Zak Showalter or Vitto Brown don't catch fire from distance.

On paper, Wisconsin is the better team. But playing at The Barn, the Gophers will be hyped for this one having all week to prepare for it coming off two losses. This game will be a telling one for what these two teams can do going forward.

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