The Badgers and the Gophers have their first of two match-ups on Saturday afternoon in Minneapolis. The game will be televised on BTN at 3:30pm. The Badgers have won the last five meetings against the Gophers.
G: Bronson Koenig (14.5 PPG, 1.9 APG)
G: Zak Showalter (8.1 PPG, 2.3 APG)
F: Nigel Hayes (13.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 3.2 APG)
F: Vitto Brown (7.9 PPG, 3.9 RPG)
C: Ethan Happ (12.8 PPG, 9.1 RPG)
G: Nate Mason (13.9 PPG, 5.4 APG)
G: Dupree McBrayer (11.7 PPG, 2.9 APG)
G: Amir Coffey (11.3 PPG, 3.8 RPG)
F: Jordan Murphey (10.2 PPG, 8.1 RPG)
C: Reggie Lynch (8.4 PPG, 5.8 RPG)
Vitto Brown (right leg/ankle) is questionable after not practicing Thursday and participating on a limited basis on Friday. Khalil Iverson would likely start in his place.
The Gophers and the Badgers boast two of the best point guards in the Big Ten conference. Bronson Koenig, who is coming off of a clutch night against Michigan, will have his hands full with Minnesota’s Nate Mason.
Mason is third in the conference in assists, averaging 5.4 APG. He also leads the Gophers in scoring at a shade under 14 PPG. Mason has been instrumental in upset games before, like when he totaled 31 points, 11 assists, and 6 boards in a win over Purdue on New Year’s Day.
Minnesota was a dark horse favorite to win the Big Ten right before conference play because of a 12-1 non-conference record. After losing to Michigan State in the conference opener, Richard Pitino’s squad seemed on the cusp of breaking through after beating Purdue, Ohio State, and Northwestern, and got themselves ranked in the top-25. However, the Gophers have since lost back to back games to Michigan State (again) and Penn State.
Last year, the Badgers won 62-49 the sole matchup between the two schools, but Mason didn’t play, and the Gophers didn’t have Amir Coffey on the roster yet. Coffey was ranked the 32nd best prospect in the high school class of 2015. He was offered a scholarship by the Badgers. In Minnesota’s last two games, both losses, he’s struggled. Coffey combined for 10 points in 66 minutes. Still, Coffey averages in double figures in points and shoots nearly 46% from the field.
Akeem Springs, a key member of Minnesota’s bench, transferred this year from Milwaukee. In 2015 Springs scored eight points and grabbed five boards as Milwaukee came within a point of upsetting the Badgers. Springs is averaging 8.6 PPG and 2.8 RPG in 20.8 minutes for the Gophers this season.
“It’ll be tough at their place, they’ve got a good team this year,” Badgers assistant coach Howard Moore said of the matchup. “Some nice guards and post players too, so we’ve just got to make sure we defend and build off of what we’ve been doing as a team.”