On Friday, an Indiana boy abducted two decades was found living in Minnesota under an assumed identity. Meanwhile, on Saturday at noon ET, the Minnesota Gophers will travel to Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Indiana searching for an item of their own—an extra W in the win-loss column.
Midway through the college basketball season, as conference play gets into full swing, the Indiana Hoosiers find themselves exactly where they thought they would. The Indiana Hoosiers begin conference play as the No.1 ranked team in the nation. Aside from Cody Zeller’s plummeting draft stock, 14-1 Indiana has performed up to preseason expectations and enters Saturday’s contest as the nation’s highest scoring team.
On the other hand, the first half of Minnesota’s campaign has been more shocking than a toaster in the tub. Despite being picked to finish sixth in the conference, the Gophers have risen to No. 8 in the entire nation. In case, the nation didn’t think they were the real deal after their 12-1 start during non-conference play, wins over No. 18 Michigan State, Northwestern and No. 5 Illinois quelled those concerns. The Gophers join Duke, whom Minnesota suffered its only loss of the season against on Nov. 22, as the only other Division I team with victories over three ranked opponents.
Senior Trevor Mbakwe has had his minutes monitored closely while recovering from offseason knee surgery but is slowly rounding into form. In Wednesday’s win over the Fighting Illini, Mbakwe played a season-high 35 minutes and responded with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Williams believes they have a legitimate chance to win the Big Ten.
"That's everybody's goal to start the year and that's been our goal every year I've been here," coach Tubby Smith said. "We expect to compete for a Big Ten championship and we certainly believe we have the players to do it. We've got to come prepared and win, and we know that's the bottom line."
However, a win over the Hoosiers would immediately vault the Gophers into serious national championship discussions. The Gophers are in the midst of an 11-game winning streak and have attained their highest national ranking since the vacated 1996-97 Final Four season
Led by Zeller, the Hoosiers balanced scoring attack features five players who score between 11.1 and 16.5 points per game. Defensively, the Hoosiers lead the conference in field-goal percentage defense (35.8).
Starting guards Austin and Andre Hollins are Minnesota’s primary deep threats but the frontcourt is Minnesota’s strength. Rodney Williams and Mbakwe both average three offensive boards per game for a team that leads the nation in offensive rebounding percentage.
Minnesota is seeking a different result than the their meeting one year ago today when the Gophers defeated the Hoosiers in a nail biting 77-74 win. The Big Ten's latest power struggle can be seen on the Big Ten Network.
Where To Watch Online: No.8 Minnesota Gophers at No. 5 Indiana Hoosiers