It’s been a rough few weeks for Northwestern men’s Basketball as the ‘Cats have dropped five straight after starting Big Ten play 3-2. Northwestern’s last win came at home on January 12, when the Wildcats topped the Wisconsin Badgers 70-65, and they’ll look to pick up another W against the Minnesota Golden Gophers tomorrow night in Evanston.
The ‘Cats first faced the Gophers this season in Minneapolis at Williams Arena, otherwise known as “The Barn,” in early January, winning by an easy 77-52 margin. Aaron Falzon caught fire from behind the arc for NU as he hit six 3-pointers on his way to a team-high 20 points. As a team, Northwestern shot 56 percent from the floor, putting up the team’s highest point total in conference play.
Minnesota was led by sophomore guard Nate Mason’s 12 points and 6 assists, while Bakary Konate added 12 points and 3 rebounds. The Gophers shot just 39.1 percent from the floor and 27.1 percent from beyond the arc.
In their first time out against the Gophers, the Wildcats were able to exploit Minnesota’s zone and shoot over 50 percent from the floor (and 44 percent from beyond the three-point line).
Now, heading into their matchup with the ‘Cats on Thursday night, the Gophers remain winless in conference play and sit at 6-16 overall (0-10 in Big Ten play). Richard Pitino’s squad has also yet to win on the road this season, and doesn’t have a victory since 2015.
In conference play, Mason continues to lead the Gophers, averaging 15.1 PPG to go with 4.7 APG and 3.3 RPG. Freshman forward Jordan Murphy is the only other Minnesota player averaging double-digit points in conference play, averaging 10.4 PPG and 6.8 RPG. Seniors Joey King and Carlos Morris are also heavy contributors for the Gophers, averaging 9.2 and 9.1 points per game in conference play respectively.
Compared to the ‘Cats, Minnesota averages about three points per game less than Northwestern, and gives up about five more per contest. The ‘Cats rank better than the Golden Gophers in almost every relevant statistical category.
KenPom ranks Minnesota as the 185th best team in Division I, the second-worst Big Ten team and gives the ‘Cats an 84 percent chance of topping the Gophers squad and breaking their 5-game losing streak. For reference, KenPom ranks Northwestern as the No. 97 team in NCAA Division I.
If the ‘Cats can find their shooting touch at home — Northwestern shoots more than eight percent worse from the field in Welsh-Ryan Arena — they shouldn’t have too much trouble dispatching Minnesota and breaking their five-game losing streak.