Gopher hoops open Big Ten play against Michigan State

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The U of M men's basketball team is off to its best start of the Tubby Smith era. Now they'll see if their non-conference success carries over into a winning season in the Big Ten Conference.

Minnesota opens conference play Monday night at Williams Arena against Michigan State. Both teams are ranked in the top 20 (Minnesota No. 11, Michigan State No. 19). The Gophers cruised through non-conference play with a 12-1 record, their only blemish coming at the hands of top-ranked Duke.

The folks at the Rant Sports website think the battle down low should be fascinating. Minnesota's Trevor Mbakwe says he's almost back to full strength in his recovery from major knee surgery, while Rodney Williams has been a strong complement inside.

The Gopher Sports blog notes that Michigan State forward Derrick Nix is the reigning Big Ten player of the week, after scoring 25 points against Texas.

Meanwhile, a Michigan State blogger is among those remarking on the Gophers' rebounding anomaly. On the offensive glass, Minnesota is number one in the country. On the defensive end? They let opponents collect 35 percent of the boards. That's 280th among Division I teams. Go figure.

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