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Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. Northwestern Wildcats Preview

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!!!!! !!!!! !!!!! !!!!

The biggest game in Northwestern basketball history happens for the fourth consecutive game today. I have nothing to write besides let's do this.

Ralph Sampson III could be out for the game with a knee injury, which, although you obviously hate to root for people to be injured, could be huge. Minnesota's only suitable backup center is, well, nobody. Freshman Elliot Eliason would sub in, and that's not great for Minnesota. When going up against NU, Minnesota's strength was presumably its interior play, thanks to Sampson, without him, it's a completely different ballgame.

Since we last met: Minnesota crashed and burned down the stretch, ending its season with a five game losing streak tempered by a victory over Nebraska.

What did NU do right last time?: 1-3-1. Northwestern got crushed by Minnesota at Minnesota, but then came back and led most of the way in a never-really-close 11 point win at home in a game where Northwestern didn't shot particularly well. The culprit was a zone that forced 18 turnovers. With either no Sampson or a hampered Sampson, the zone won't have to worry as much about the soft spots at the bottom, so long as Northwestern defends the perimeter tightly. If Northwestern prevents the Gophers from going off from deep, this could be their game.

Can NU win? Yes. Kenpom has this as a "barely" victory, a one-pointer with 52 percent chance of victory, but with Sampson hurt and Minnesota struggling of late, I like Northwestern's chances. Still should be a close one Northwestern could easily lose, but, well, let's go.