What’s at Stake for Gophers Saturday @ Purdue?

Photo: Harrison Barden - USA TODAY Sports

Richard Pitino’s 2020-21 Minnesota Gophers have become the epitome of an enigma, as this weird af NCAA basketball season continues to unfold before our eyes.

We’re talking about a team that’s winless on the road this year (0-4), but up until last weekend, was undefeated at home (now 11-1). A team that has shooters who start at all five positions, but can’t shoot. Yet, the Gophers are still a team that can beat anyone in the country, on any given night, if they show up and hit a few shots.

Well, they will tip-off at 6:30 Saturday night against the Purdue Boilermakers and it’s one of their biggest games of the season. The must(ish)-win nature of the game is self-inflicted. They took that first home “L” at The Barn exactly one week ago vs 9-7 (3-6) Maryland, and need to make up for it with their first “W” on the road.

A loss puts Top-25 in Jeopardy

The Golden Gophers enter Saturday ranked #21 (AP) in the nation. They fell there from #17, after the Maryland loss and didn’t play another game this week. There’s no guarantee they remain in the Top-25 if they were to lose again tonight.

They’ve already dropped to #31 in the KenPom rankings and need a road win to gain any traction in the NET, where they still only rank #38.

A loss would be their fourth in five games and their fifth in their last seven. It would also mean starting the easiest portion of their Big Ten schedule 0-2, after going 4-4 vs all top-25 teams to start conference play.

A win puts season back on track

But a win would flip the script. It’d give Minnesota their first road victory of the season and it would come over a legitimate Big Ten team. Purdue might not be ranked, but they’re no scrub.

At 11-6 (6-4), the Boilermakers rank ahead of the Gophers in both the KenPom (#29) and NET (#30) rankings. Purdue is also the favorite to win tonight’s matchup (-2.5).

Coming out on top would vault Pitino’s squad up the KenPom, but especially up the NET rankings. It’d also prove their loss vs Maryland as more of a fluke than their recent victory over (#7) Michigan.

Win or lose, the Gophers will still be projected as an easy NCAA at-large bid. As of yesterday, they were projected as a #6 seed by Joe Lunardi (ESPN).

Notes on Purdue Game

The Boilermakers are down their best outside scorer, Sasha Stefanovic, and they don’t really have anyone else. So, if both teams are bad from the outside, which Minnesota has been all year long (especially on the road), then this could be an ugly one to watch. If one team shoots well, this could (also) be an ugly one to watch.

I’m going to go out on a HUGE limb here and predict a Gabe Kalscheur revenge game. I don’t know why but something tells me today is the day Gabe finally catches fire. If that happens, we party.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan

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