Gophers Game Preview: #18 Minnesota at #12 Purdue (Saturday 1/29 1:00 EST CBS)

Tyler BiwanContributor IJanuary 28, 2011

Sampson III must come up big on Saturday at Purdue
Sampson III must come up big on Saturday at PurdueJonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Minnesota looks to continue their four game winning streak as they head into Mackey Arena on Saturday afternoon.

Purdue has lost three of their last five, beginning with a 67-70 loss at The Barn on the 13th. 

This is by no means a "must win" for Purdue, but they have to be feeling a sense of urgency with their recent slide, including a blowout at unbeaten Ohio State on Tuesday. 

In their first contest, Blake Hoffarber carried the Gophers with 26 points. 

This, however, came before the recent injury of point guard Al Nolen. 

Wednesday's win over Northwestern was the first chance to see Minnesota play without Nolen, who is undoubtedly their best defensive player and a big contributor on offense as well. 

Tubby Smith opted to put Hoffarber at point guard for much of the game, realizing that inexperienced freshmen are behind him in Chip Armelin and Maverick Ahanmesi. 

Skeptical of Hoffarber's ability to put up his usual numbers, he managed to score 20 (5-10 FG, 8-8 FT).  For Minnesota to have a chance at winning, he must stay heavily involved in the offense. 

Another huge key to victory on Saturdayget Ralph Sampson III going. 

He's scored in double figures the past three games, but in the last match against Purdue he finished with six points and two rebounds, while allowing JaJuan Johnson to finish with 29 points and 11 rebounds. 

It was surprising that Minnesota pulled off a victory given that line, but the Gophers likely won't have similar success if this happens again. 

What would an upset win mean for Minnesota? 

For starters, they would be tied for third in the Big Ten standings. 

The second-place Badgers will be facing Purdue, Michigan State, and Ohio State in three of their next five, potentially setting them back in the standings.  Meanwhile the Gophers will be traveling to bottom-feeders Indiana and Iowa, with a home-stand in between the two games against Illinois, and unbeaten No. 1 Ohio State.

Can the Gophers still make the tournament with a loss on Saturday?Absolutely. 

Could they keep the dream of a Big Ten Championship alive with a win?Well, look at their schedule.  It'll make things interesting if Minnesota leaves West Lafayette tomorrow with a W.