The Gophers already snagged one of their four-straight games against ranked opponents -- which was a must. But now they have a chance to get two, and possibly three, from this daunting stretch, which they'd love to do. The first chance for No. 2 comes Sunday afternoon in Iowa City, Iowa against the No. 14 Hawkeyes.
Here are my 5 things to watch for:
Dealing with the size: Iowa is the fifth tallest team in the nation -- the average Hawkeye is over six-and-a-half inches tall. You can't teach size, and it's one of the most difficult obstacles to face at times. But the Gophers (201st tallest team in the country) have tamed Florida State, the nation's second-longest squad (average player was 6'6").
Elliott Eliason struggled against the Seminoles -- he finished with just one point and two boards in the Gophers win. He'll be out-sized again on Sunday as Eliason (6'11"), goes up against Iowa center Adam Woodbury (7'1") -- at least on paper. Eliason questioned the legitimacy of Woodbury's height.
"I'm taller than Adam Woodbury," he said. "It makes me really mad he's listed at 7'1". I'm going to take it up with the media guide people to put me at 7'2"."
Eliason can settle the height dispute on Sunday.
Roy Devyn Marble: Marble, a 6'6" senior guard, is a matchup nightmare -- on both ends of the floor. He averages 16.4 points and 2.2 steals per game.
"He certainly is a very good guard in this league," Pitino said. "He's got size. ... I've got a lot of respect for him."
The Gophers faced a similar matchup problem against Ohio State in LaQuinton Ross and they're simple answer was to play zone for nearly the entire game. Minnesota will surely play a lot of zone again on Sunday, but Iowa is a much better three-point shooting team than Ohio State (37.7 percent). At some point, if the Hawkeyes shoot the Gophers out of the zone, Minnesota will have to go man, and someone is going to have to cover Marble.
Going Inside: Ohio State was able to shutdown Minnesota's perimeter game (Gophers shot just 3 for 14 from deep). Iowa has the ability to do the same. The Hawkeyes come into the game as the ninth-best team in the nation at defending the three (opp. shoot 28.1 percent).
Minnesota was able to counteract its three-point deficencies by going inside against the Buckeyes. Eliason finished with 12 points, while Mo Walker added five and Oto Osenieks chipped in eight. If Minnesota struggles from the perimeter again, the Gophers will need the inside presence to compete.
Hitting the Glass: Rebounding was a major flaw for this Gophers team earlier in the season. It's definitely improved as of late, but Minnesota faces a tall task on the glass in Iowa on Sunday. The Hawkeyes are No. 15 in offensive rebounding percentage (they collect 38.5% of misses). Minnesota can't afford to give Iowa second chance looks on many possessions -- the Hawkeyes are too good for that. It's going to take production from every spot -- including power forward -- on the glass for the Gophers to corral the boards.
Turning Iowa Over: The Hawkeyes don't turn the ball over. They are the 45th-best in the country at protecting the ball, and they're actually slightly better at forcing turnovers than Minnesota (Forcing TO rate of 19.5 for Iowa -- 19,4 for Minnesota). As has been stated in the past, if Minnesota can't win the turnover battle, it can't win the game -- especially not on the road against a top-15 opponent.