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Northwestern vs. No. 9 Minnesota basketball preview

Even if Northwestern gets Reggie Hearn back against Minnesota today, they'll have a tough time beating the No. 9 Golden Gophers on the road in an arena where Northwestern struggles to win.

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

It's time for another Big Ten blowout! And this one possibly worse, since Northwestern is playing a team of roughly equal caliber to Michigan (Kenpom has Michigan at No. 7 after their ridiculously efficient effort vs. Northwestern, while Minnesota is No. 9) and on the road in the Barn, a place where Northwestern loves to lose by a lot.

Are they good?: Well, let's put it this way: yes. Trevor Mbakwe is back, and he's fifth on the team in scoring. Mbakwe and Rodney Williams drive this team from the frontcourt, while Austin Hollins and Andre Hollins still aren't related, but do carry the scoring load.

What are they good at?: They play a big man's game: great interior defense, straight up stabby on the offensive boards, and good scoring ability inside the arc.

How can NU stop them?: Northwestern has a chance if they stick to the zone: Minnesota commits a lot of turnovers and can't particularly shoot well. However, if they do zone up, Mbakwe and Williams will probably dominate on the offensive boards. That said, I think it's their only hope: Northwestern isn't nearly athletic enough to stop these guys in a matchup.

Is there any hope?: Probs not. Minnesota's been great all year, with their only loss to Duke. I do think Minnesota provides a better matchup for Northwestern than a lot of teams because they play into the zone. So drill some threes and catch them on an off day? Maybe you can keep it within striking range. But knowing who Northwestern is playing and where Northwestern is playing them, probably not. Maybe Northwestern has a chance if Christian Ponder can't play.

Leonard-Sullinger Living Memorial B1G Hate Hero Award: Not many hateable players here, so let's put Hollins and Mbakwe together: Hollins for scoring a career high in an overtime game that pretty much kept Northwestern out of its first NCAA tournament bid last year, and Mbakwe for having three career double-doubles in three career games against Northwestern, including 18 points and 14 rebounds on ten shots in a win at the Barn two years ago.

Reggie Hearn status update: He's questionable.