Friday, December 28, 2007

Duel In The Desert Begins Tonight

*** Thanks to Gopher Nation for the tip I've just spent $18 to watch every scintilating moment of the Duel in the Desert. You can watch too here. But you should be aware that the production value is awful and there is no audio. Though I suppose no audio is better than a Dick Bremer broadcast.

Our Golden Gophers men's basketball team wind down the non-conference portion of the schedule this weekend with three games in Sin City. The games really are taking place, I promise, even if they aren't on television anywhere, not on Fox Sports Sin City or anything else. It's not really a tournament, per se, but a round robin that features stalwarts like Nicholls State and the feared Owls of Kennesaw State. And in a must-read preview by Down With Goldy, we learn that calling the round robin a "duel" isn't exactly accurate either.

The saving grace of this trip to Vegas is the potential resume booster a win against UNLV, on their home court, could provide the Gophers. That game will take place Sunday. Until then, the Gophers really ought to take care of business against Nicholls State and Kennesaw State.

Opening with the Colonels of Nicholls State tonight at 8 p.m. eastern time, the Gophers will face a team from the Southland Conference that has put up a 4-8 record. The Colonels are led by 6'2 junior guard Michael Czepil, who honeslty I know nothing about other than he's from Australia. After starting the season 2-7, the Colonels have played slightly better basketball, beating UL Monroe and Lipscomb before losing admirably at North Carolina nine days ago by just 10 points. I imagine the Tar Heels looked past the lowly Colonels, but the final score (88-78) should tell us that if the Gophers don't take Nicholls State seriously, they have an outside chance of biting us. That said, I'll pick the Gophers by 25.

On Saturday, again at 8 p.m. eastern time, the Gophers will face a Kennesaw State Owls team out of the Atlantic Sun Conference (home of Gardner-Webb) that has put together a 2-8 mark to begin the season. The Owls' two wins have come against Jacksonville State and something called the Clark Atlanta Panthers. For what it's worth, the Owls are led by a one-two punch in senior guard Ronell Wooten and senior forward Shaun Stegall. Kennesaw State might be the worst team the Gophers have faced all season, so I expect the Gophers to jump out big early and perhaps try out some new tricks, or iron out any kinks in our presses and traps before the round-robin winds down.

At 7 p.m. eastern time on Sunday, the Gophers get a much needed primer for Big Ten season, which begins early in 2008 when the Gophers head to East Lansing for a very tough test against Tom Izzo and company. But for now, the Gophers will have enough on their hands against the Runnin' Rebels. The Rebels are coached by former Illinois head man Lon Kruger, who has done a very good job in Las Vegas. He led the Runnin' Rebels to an impressive 30-7 record last year and a trip to the Sweet 16.

And while the Rebels lost four of their five starters from that team, perhaps their most dynamic starter is still around to cause havoc. That would be 6'0 junior guard Wink Adams, who ESPN's Blue Ribbon Insider Season Preview called "one of the [Mountain West Conference's] most dynamic stars." Adams is known for his defensive quickness, a trait which has frustrated the perimiter offense of opponents. Adams has led the Runnin' Rebels with 14.5 points per game. Adams has the potential to give all of the Gophers' guards fits. If Lawrence McKenzie is our starting point guard this season, the matchup against Adams will be as good a test as any. Helping out Adams on the glass is 6'7 junior forward Joe Darger, who has seen his minutes more than double since last season. He's produced offensively (12.8 per game) and on the glass (leading UNLV in rebounding with 6 per game). And in the backcourt, Adams is accompanied by senior guard/forward Curtis Terry.

The Rebels enter the weekend with an 8-3 mark, but each loss seems to be excusable. The Rebels have lost at home to Louisville and Arizona, and in a hard-fought road contest at UC Santa Barbara, possibly the favorite in the Big West Conference. On the other hand, UNLV's wins haven't been impressive either. So, a win for either the Gophers or Rebels on Sunday would be the best win to date for either squad.

The Gophers will have to make a decision about whether they want to press a guard like Adams or not. Whether they press him or not, they'll want to do whatever they can to get the rock out of his hands. In 2 of the 3 UNLV losses, Adams put up 9 and 11 points. McKenzie, Al Nolen and Lawrence Westbrook will have their hands full Sunday. Other keys to the game include: Dan Coleman being an aggressor offensively, Damian Johnson being a factor on the defensive end and perimiter shooting is a big area against UNLV considering their very good perimiter defense.

Prediction: I'm a homer, and think the Gophers can use their size inside with Spencer Tollackson and Dan Coleman to impose their will against UNLV. Gophers win a squeaker none of us can watch by 3.


lurker said...

I have a feeling the Gophers are going to be given a tough game tonight by Nicholls State. Just a feeling. They played UNC close, they can do the same with us.

From The Barn said...

First you evade questions about the barn, now a shot at Dick Bremer. What's next? Criticizing Hosea Crittenden for not dunking enough?

(Don't worry, I'm slightly kidding).

PJS said...

LOL. Ryan Saunders > Dick Bremer.

Seriously .... On the Barn ... I love that place, but can't go as far as you and Jon at TNABACG and suggest Tubby should go because he doesn't like the place. I'd like to hear Tubby's rationale--other than it's an old building.

Mark said...

Did not see the update in time to learn about the streaming option, but the BlackBerry was good for keeping tabs on the score. Gotta like a defensive effort that only allows 32 points! I guess Tubby did a good job of using that UNC game to make his point about not looking past anyone.

Cheap skate said...

share the loggin name/pswrd. for the remaining 2 games...