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Gophers host Michigan in Big Ten opener tonight

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The battle of similar logos takes place Thursday night when the Gophers (11-2) meet the Michigan Wolverines (8-4) at Williams Arena to opener the Big Ten portion of the schedule.

Minnesota's first conference challenge will be one of its toughest. The Wolverines bring back six players that helped Michigan reach the NCAA championship game last season, where they lost to Louisville.

The biggest story into the game is that Michigan's Mitch McGary is out with a back injury. The 6-foot-10 big man was named to the Associated Press preseason All-America team.

Minnesota cleaned up the non-conference portion of its schedule with a tidy 11-2 record. It marks the seventh straight season the Gophers have won double-digit non-conference games, according to GopherSports.com.

The Gophers aren't expected to compete for a Big Ten title this season. Bleacher Report picked the Gophers to finish 10th in the conference.

That said, Ken Pomeroy's statistical projections say the Gophers will win 11 games, which the Star Tribune calls a "pretty generous" prediction.

Michigan's four losses have come to mostly quality teams in Iowa State, Charlotte, Duke and Arizona.

Michigan will the first test to see if Richard Pitino's up-tempo, high pressure system will work in the Big Ten.

"I love the fact that they're going to play a different style than a lot of the Big Ten programs will," Big Ten Network's Stephen Bardo said, via the Pioneer Press. "I think at least in the first year, teams know that it's coming, but it will take them by surprise."

Michigan head coach John Beilein told the Detroit Free Press that stopping Gophers guard DeAndre Mathieu will be the key to slowing down Andre and Austin Hollins, which in turn slows down the entire team.

The game tips off at 6 p.m.

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