Northwestern vs. No. 12 Minnesota basketball preview

Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

The Northwestern Wildcats face Minnesota after an ugly game that resulted in 31 combined first-half points and an 18-point loss for NU. Can the Cats keep their good play of late up and put a scare in the Gophers?

Northwestern plays Minnesota tonight, and oh no, they're still good. However, Northwestern's been playing much better ball lately, so hopefully the Wildcats once again play up to the level of their opponent, and give the Gophers a run for their money - or at the very least don't get blown out on their home floor.

Since we last met: The Gophers were 14-1 the first time we played. Now they're 15-3. Is there PANIC IN THE TWIN CITIES? Nah, they just played Michigan and Indiana, and this conference is an absolute grindhouse film. Trevor Mbakwe is - still - playing college basketball, they still have two Hollinses - I call my Hollinses James Westfall and Dr. Kenneth Noisewater, - and are still, you know, good.

What happened last time: CARNAGE! It was 17-14 in the half after Northwestern let it burn, but couldn't hit a shot. Then, Minnesota unloaded for 52 in the second half so the scoreline didn't look stupid behind a dominating rebounding performance - Minnesota had 45 boards, NU only 20, and it's not just because Northwestern was building another barn out of bricks.

What NU can do better: Well, the rebounding department is never going to improve. But if Northwestern plays the 1-3-1 for a few spurts like they did against Indiana and hits shots, this should be a more respectable game.

Rotation notes: More Alex Olah, please. I genuinely don't see what Michael Turner does at this point in his career, besides foul. Olah looked shook in the last game, but still seems to bring more on defense. Maybe if he wasn't afraid he'd get pulled at any given moment, he'd show a bit more confidence. Maybe even Nikola Cerina at some points? I don't see how it can hurt. Turner still needs time to develop.

I think Tre Demps should be starting over Kale Abrahamson. I like Kale, but he hasn't been shooting, and if he's not shooting, I don't see what he's out there to do. Demps has been shooting, and although he ain't efficient, he puts up points.

Do we think Jared Swopshire can keep hitting shots at a career best level? I don't know, but I want him to keep trying. He's such a big boost at the defensive end, I can put up with some clanging if he sometimes comes through with a few key jimmies.

Can NU win?: I think they have a similar chance that they did against Indiana: play hard, maybe there's a win. I predict a Minnesota win by somewhere in the ten point category. On Northwestern's ROAD TO THE NIT BECAUSE OUR BEST PLAYER IS HURT AND ANOTHER GUY'S SUSPENDED, this game isn't a must-win by any means, but I'd like to see them play well to keep the good feelings from the last two games going.

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