Date: Tuesday, December 5th
Time: 8:00 pm CST
Mascot: Golden Gophers
Ranking: #14 AP/#15 Coaches
Coach: Rick Pitino (5th Season)
2016-17 Record: 24-10 (11-7 Big Ten)
2017-18 Record: 8-1 (1-0 Big Ten)
Believe it or not, Rick Pitino was on the hot seat going into the 2016-17 season. His first season coaching the Gophers he went 25-13. He then followed it up with two disappointing seasons going 18-15 and 8-23 respectively. His fourth season was not looking terribly good going into it. Most, including myself, thought he would be replaced at the end of the year.
Well, it turned out that his fourth season saved his job. The Gophers went 24-10 overall and 11-7 in the Big Ten where they ended up 4th in the conference. They were rewarded with a No. 5 at large bid in the NCAA Tournament. The season came to and end in the first round against No. 12 Middle Tennessee.
By the end of the year Coach Pitino was named Big Ten Coach of the year. Nate Mason made first team all Big Ten, Jordan Murphy made third team all Big Ten, and Reggie Lynch was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Not bad at all for a team that went 8-23 the previous season.
A lot of the talent from last season returns and has already paid dividends for the squad. They started out 7-0 until they met #10 Miami in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The Gophers played well but the Hurricanes handed them their first loss of the season 86-81.
Most of Minnesota’s wins so far this year have been against lesser opponents. Notable wins were a 86-74 win against the Big East’s Providence and a close 89-84 win over then #25 Alabama. Both good teams that have helped the Gophers progress early.
Reggie Lynch, Jordan Murphy, and Nate Mason are all back this year and are a reason why many folks believe this team can vie for the top of the Big Ten.
Reggie Lynch is currently averaging 11.9 ppg, 8.6 rpg, and 1.7 apg. The 6’10’ senior forward will give our forwards in the paint a lot of pressure and will have to be kept in check throughout the game. There is no if and or buts about it, he is one of the top big men in the conference, if not the country and will create problems. He is coming off a big game against Rutgers where he had 16 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 blocks.
Next to Reggie you need to keep an eye on Nate Mason. He is their returning All Big Ten guard who is averaging 15.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg, and 4.6 apg. He is shooting 45% from the field and 43% from beyond the arch. Like Reggie, he helped blow Rutgers out of the water with 26 points, 7 assists, and 2 steals. It could easily be an early night for the Huskers if they let him get open shots to start the game.
Also worth mentioning is Jordan Murphy. Well, he has actually been a pretty great part of this team this year so it’s more than worth the mention. Jordan is a 6’6” forward who is averaging a whopping 21 ppg, and 12.9 rpg for the Gophers. This has been a huge year for the junior who almost transferred out after his freshman season.
This is the second game in a string of four that the Huskers will be battling a top ranked team. They are currently ranked #14 in the nation and looked to be primed for another very nice post season run. They’re good and they’re talented and have enough power to cause the Huskers plenty of problems.
Nebraska needs to win one of these four games and this could be it. However, the Huskers need to rebound well from the Sunday loss to Michigan State and focus on the win at home.
The Huskers are progressing as the season has gone on. But, the defense has given me doubt that they can hang with a team like Minnesota at this point in the season. The Huskers may be able to beat them later on in the season but I don’t see it right now.
University of Minnesota 82 University of Nebraska 67