Five things to watch: Gophers at Nebraska

by Jack Satzinger

The Gophers take on Nebraska on Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. Here are five things to watch for in the game:

1. Will Minnesota go on a run?

Richard Pitino's players took their 0-5 conference start rough and last week's 89-80 victory against Rutgers could be a sign things are turning around. After all, Minnesota doesn't play a team that's currently ranked until it travels to Iowa in three weeks. At the same token, Rutgers — despite beating Frank Kamisnky-less Wisconsin at home — is still one of the worst teams in the Big Ten. Is that win really all that impressive? Have things really changed for the Gophers? Time to find out.

2. Is Andre Hollins ready to be consistent?

On Saturday, Hollins shot with confidence en route to 31 points and looked genuinely ecstatic to be on the floor for the first time in a long time. In short, he reminded Gophers fans just how good he can be. Hollins has had other shining moments this year, like the 27-point outing at Wake Forest and a 24-point showing against Southern. There have also been forgetable performances like his 2-point game at Maryland. Hollins doesn't need to score 20 or 30 points for Minnesota to have success, but it wouldn't hurt if he could consistently shoot efficiently and reach double figures. 

3. Can Mo Walker take advantage?

Walker is one of the Big Ten's best low-post scorers and when he's engaged it only creates more offensive opportunities for his teammates on the perimeter. The Cornhuskers are particularly talented on the wing, but have been banged up inside. Big men Leslee Smith and Moses Abraham have struggled through injuries, leaving Walter Pitchford as one of Nebraska's only options at center. If he gets into foul trouble against Walker, things could roll the Gophers' way. 

4. Will Terran Petteway torch Minnesota again?

The Cornhuskers swingman scored a career-high 35 points against Minnesota last season and is currently second in the Big Ten in scoring at 19.4 points per game. Considering Minnesota's lack of depth on the wing, Petteway could very well put the Gophers away. Hollins may guard him, but is nearly a half foot shorter. The last time he was up against a taller go-to scorer things didn't go so well. Carlos Morris is a longer option, but his defensive effort has been suspect enough for Pitino to start Charles Buggs in his place against Iowa. 

5. Something's got to give.

Minnesota came into the season with lofty expectations after bringing back every key contributor from last year's NIT Championship not named Austin Hollins. Now, the Gophers are 1-5 in Big Ten play and have to put together a string of wins fast if they want to reach the "Big Dance." 

Nebraska was ranked No. 21 in the preseason AP poll, but is 10-7 overall and has lost to teams it should have easily beaten like Rhode Island, Incarnate Word and Hawaii. Either Minnesota or Nebraska could revive its season and reach the NCAA Tournament if it goes on a hot streak in this topsy-turvy, good-but-not-great Big Ten. Tuesday night would be a great time to start.