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The Border War Renewed by Max
Whenever Wisconsin and Minnesota get together in a sporting event, one can be sure the stands will be packed and the hatred for the other side will be evident. This weekend each State gets a chance to root for the home team as Wisconsin travels to the Barn to play Minnesota Saturday morning. Minnesota will return the favor in Men's Hockey as they travel to the Kohl Center to open up a two-game series on Friday night. For the sake of this article I will just focus on the basketball match-up between two teams on the rise in Big Ten basketball action.
Both teams looked impressive during their mid-week contest, but only one of them was expected. The Gophers were playing the Wolverines on the last stop off a two game road trip in which they were clobbered by the number one ranked Illinois in game one. This team followed that with their best conference game of the season in Ann Arbor, dominating Michigan and winning the game by 17 points.
For Minnesota, both sides of the floor go through center Jeff Hagen. Hagen is second on the team in points and rebounds and is also a great passer from the post. Hagen, along with Vincent Grier, has completely changed the make-up of this team. This team is much quicker then last year's squad and, Kris Humphries, one of the most selfish players on the team is not gone. They are now and exciting team to watch and the city has really gotten behind this them. For the moment, Dan Monson's job appears to be safe. The Gophers are 5-3 in conference action and still have a reasonable chance to make the NCAA Tournament.
Wisconsin has recovered nicely since losing a heartbreaker to Illinois, thus ending the longest home winning steak in the nation. Since then, they have clobbered the bottom of the Big Ten beating Penn State by 26 points and Northwestern during the midweek by 15. They sit at 6-2 in the conference and will likely finish in either the second or third spot.
For the Badgers, the offense goes through fifth year senior Mike Wilkinson. Wilkinson has the ability to beat one on the inside with a variety of post moves. His running mate, Alando Tucker, has had trouble staying on the floor this season because of a leg injury. If he would every get healthy, this would be a team that could challenge for an elite eight spot.
Since both teams have a dominating inside presense, this game will come down to the play of the guards. Wisconsin has seen the emergence of Kammron Taylor and because of his productive play; senior transfer Sharif Chambliss has seen his minutes go down because of his tendency to force up shots. The Badgers have won the last two times when playing at the barn and Minnesota needs to get over this psychological factor in order to win this game.
Minnesota needs to shoot the ball well from the arc in order to free up their big men inside. The team really prides themselves on their defensive play and their commitment has paid off this season holding Michigan to 54 points and shutting out Indiana for the first eight minutes of the second half last week. I would expect a tightly contested game that goes late into the second half before being decided. There are some other key angles that we will uncover so be sure to check back on Saturday and sign up for the winner in this contest.
One E-mail A Week Is All You Need! Our weekly newsletter is loaded with exclusive free picks,insight and advice from our expert handicappers