Minnesota travels to Wisconsin and Northwestern this week. The Golden Gophers will face the Badgers in Madison on Friday, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m., and will then travel to Evanston on Saturday, Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. Wisconsin enters the week with a 16-10 overall record, and is tied for sixth in the Big Ten at 6-8. The Wildcats are 8-17 overall, and are in 10th place in the conference at 2-12. Minnesota enters the week with a 20-6 overall record, and is tied for second at 10-4. The Golden Gophers opened up conference play with a three-set victory over Northwestern on Sept. 26 and won in four sets at home over Wisconsin on Sept. 27.
Entering the final three weeks of the conference season, four different teams are in the race to finish second in the Big Ten. Minnesota is currently tied for second place with Illinois at 10-4, while Purdue is fourth at 9-5 and Michigan is fifth at 9-6. The Golden Gophers have finished second place or better in the Big Ten in six of the last nine years. Minnesota finished second in 1999, 2000, 2003, 2004 and 2006, and won the Big Ten in 2002. The Golden Gophers also tied for third place in the conference in 2005 and 2007, and were sixth in 2001. Minnesota has four road matches and two home matches remaining on its schedule. The following is a look at remaining schedules for the Golden Gophers, Illinois, Michigan and Purdue:
ILL MICH MINN PUR
PSU MSU at WIS IND
IND at MINN at NU PSU
at PUR at IOWA MICH ILL
MSU IND OSU MSU
at Wis PSU at IOWA at NU
at NU at MSU at WIS
Minnesota played its 11th and 12th match against ranked opposition this week when it defeated No. 16 Illinois and No. 18 Purdue. The Golden Gophers are currently 8-4 against ranked opposition. Minnesota has defeated No. 21 LSU, No. 4 California, No. 16 Cal Poly, No. 18 Wisconsin, Illinois twice (at No. 16 and No. 19) and No. 18 Purdue twice. The Golden Gophers have lost to No. 11 Hawai'i, No. 1 Penn State (twice) and No. 20 Michigan. Since 2002, Minnesota is 50-36 against ranked opposition in 86 matches. The Golden Gophers are tied with Washington for the most matches against ranked opposition this year at 12. USC and Illinois are tied for second at 10. Minnesota, Penn State and Washington are tied for first in the nation with eight wins over ranked opposition. Stanford is fourth with seven, while Illinois and Nebraska are tied for fifth with six wins over ranked teams.
Minnesota is currently leading the Big Ten in digs per set and is second in blocks per set. The Golden Gophers have 2.80 blps and 16.97 dps. Minnesota trails Penn State in blocks (3.26-to-2.80), and leads Illinois, who is second in the conference in digs, at 16.97-to-15.93. The Golden Gophers are also second in the Big Ten in opposing hitting percentage at .160. The Nittany Lions lead the Big Ten in opponent hitting percentage at .066. Penn State (1992, 93, 94, 96) and Iowa (1988) are the only teams in the history of the Big Ten to finish the year leading the conference in both blocks and digs. This past week, Minnesota had 145 digs in eight sets for an averaged of 18.12 dps. The Golden Gophers finished with an amazing 64 digs in a three-set match against Purdue on Nov. 7. It was Minnesota’s third-highest dig total of the year in a three-set match.