Tubby Smith's Gophers are flying high through their non-con schedule, and will be out to pick up win #11 on the season Tuesday night when they host the North Dakota State Bison.

Twenty days is a long time to go for a college basketball team with just one game on the schedule. That's especially true for a squad like the Minnesota Golden Gophers who have been building momentum in the first month of the campaign.

You never know if the extra days off will help or hinder a team once we reach this point of the season. A nearly 3-week stretch with just one contest is what awaits the Gophers after they host the North Dakota State Bison at Williams Arena on Tuesday (9 PM ET). The one matchup is Dec. 22 vs. little Lafayette College out of the Patriot League, and that shouldn't provide anything but a warm-up leading into a Big Ten battle with Michigan state on New Year's Eve.

Whether or not the layoff might kill the momentum that Tubby Smith's team has built will be answered in the first few conference clashes that begin vs. the Spartans. The question that needs to be answered for tonight's game is will the Gophers get caught looking ahead to the upcoming 11-day break, or will they come into the contest against NDSU focused and ready to hit the break with a decisive victory?

It makes for an interesting decision that bettors will have to make concerning the NCAA Basketball odds that are up for Tuesday's tilt. Minnesota is listed as 14.5 point favorites with a 133.5 point total.

Let's dig a bit deeper before we make our final NCAA basketball picks for tonight's showdown.

Bison Versus Big Ten, Take 2

Both of NDSU's losses, straight up as well as against the spread, came on the road. The most recent was a 74-59 debacle at Wisconsin-Green Bay where the Bison were only getting three, essentially a pick when you account for home-court advantage. The time before that was against a Big Ten foe, the No. 1 team in the land. 

Indiana all but toyed with North Dakota State in that early matchup, the second game of the season for both teams, and still covered a 20-point closing number with an 87-61 win.

Besides both losses happening away from home, another similarity in the two Bison defeats is the performance of Taylor Braun in the two games. The junior guard leads North Dakota State with a 15.9 scoring average, but combined to net just 11 points (5-of-20 from field) in the two losses, the only two games he has failed to reach double-digits in the boxscore. Did he just have a couple of off nights, or did Indiana and Green Bay frustrate him with defensive pressure to lead to those results? 

Image previewGophers Quietly Rising In The Ranks

Minnesota was expected to be part of a very talented and deep Big Ten this season, but to go from completely shut out of the two preseason polls to No. 13 (AP) and No. 16 (Coaches) presently makes the Gophers the top early candidate for most pleasant surprise of the campaign. They've been getting it done with a well-balanced offense that has helped bettors cash the last three lined affairs, and seven of nine overall.

It's their defensive intensity and performance that will decide this game, however. Minnesota will have to get in the faces of Bison shooters on the perimeter while winning the battle inside if the final score is enough to cover the NCAAB betting lines.

Minnesota has won the last 15 straight in this series and holds a 26-1 advantage all-time. North Dakota State did cover a shorter spread last year and was in the game until the end that found the Gophers escaping with a 63-59 victory. Minnesota came out flat and unable to buy a bucket to fall behind by a dozen points midway through the first half.

This is a different group of Gophers, though, and last year's meeting was in a very different spot on Minnesota's schedule than this one. The Gophers were coming off a 9-day break and had their Big Ten schedule cranking up following the matchup with NDSU.

My picks: Over 133.5 at 5Dimes

Season: 23-22 (-$1.20)