MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — How does the No. 11-seeded Gophers men’s basketball team recover from a three-game losing skid to beat No. 6-seeded UCLA in the NCAA tournament?

Good question.

Coach Tubby Smith knows this tournament could have an impact on his future at Minnesota.

“They know the concentration they’ll have to have when you get this juncture in the season,” Smith said.

UCLA’s game plan appears to be simple – try and run early and make Minnesota question its fragile ego.

The Gophers are banking on the Big Ten schedule that got them game ready for the NCAA tournament. And that season-defining win over Indiana can still be a rallying cry.

“You can’t be intimidated — if you come out intimidated you’ll lose,” Rodney Williams said. “We just need to worry about us.”

Senior big man Trevor Mbakwe is supposed to be the difference against the “softer” Pac-12.

“The Big Ten prepares us for this situation, and it’s fun to get out of the Big Ten, and play fresh teams, ones we’re not familiar with,” he said.

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