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Northwestern to face Minnesota in the first round of the Big Ten tournament

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Wildcats! Gophers! Round three! Get pumped!

Minnesota Gophers top Northwestern Wildcats Photo by Jeff Wheeler/Star Tribune via Getty Images

Following a shocking Senior Day upset over No. 20 Penn State, Northwestern (8-22, 3-17 B1G) locked up the No. 13 seed in the Big Ten tournament, setting themselves up for a first round matchup with the 12th-seeded Minnesota Golden Gophers (13-16, 7-12 B1G) on Wednesday.

The Gophers are a familiar foe for the Wildcats, as the two teams have faced off twice this year, with Minnesota taking both regular season games with ease.

Minnesota took the first matchup 77-68, but the score hardly tells the story. The Gophers led for the final 30 minutes of the game and held a 20 point lead with nine and a half minutes to go in the second half before letting off the gas and allowing the ‘Cats to slip back into it when things were all but decided. Minnesota’s standout center, Daniel Oturu, posted a very strong 19 points and 16 rebounds in the win.

The second game was even more of a blowout. After a tough loss at Maryland a few days prior, the Wildcats returned home and absolutely flatlined. A disheartening 83-57 loss was headlined by Northwestern shooting a feeble 16.7% from three point range and yet another absurd performance from Oturu, who put up 22 points and 12 rebounds.

In both contests, Ryan Young was seemingly dwarfed by Oturu, as Young managed to grab 13 rebounds over the two games compared to the Minnesota big man’s 28. Young and backup center Jared Jones are guaranteed to have their hands full with Oturu in round three.

With that being said, the Gophers have struggled of late. Minnesota has lost their last three games: to Maryland, Wisconsin and Indiana. Meanwhile, the ‘Cats have surged a bit, taking two of their last three, one on the road at Nebraska and the aforementioned massive (and shocking) win over Penn State.

In terms of KenPom, Northwestern currently sits at #129. Meanwhile, Minnesota, even at 13-16, sits at #31.

The ‘Cats will tip off against the Gophers on Wednesday at 6 p.m. ET on BTN. We will have live coverage from Bankers Life Fieldhouse.