Saturday, February 2, 2008

Gophers' Next Big Test Comes Against [Redacted]

One of PJS' most frequent commenters, lone[redacted], likes to suggest that when Minnesota and [redacted] aren't playing, the collective fan bases of both sides ought to root for one another, instead of opponents like Ohio State, Indiana or any other more successful program.

Bah.

There is no program that this scribe likes to see down on its luck more than the men's basketball team from Madison. There is no Big Ten coach that strikes me as more of an arrogant douche than Bo Ryan. Sorry, lone[redacted]. It's not really a personal thing. I have many friends who, for some reason I'll never understand, identify with the [redacted]. And it's gotten worse in the last half-decade. Like a foreign policy Ron Paul rails agaisnt, some of my angst towards [redacted] comes because Bo Ryan has set up shop, set up a outpost so to speak, in Minnesota. While we Minnesotans are quietly working to indoctrinate our youngsters with Smilin' Goldy propaganda, there's [redacted], seemingly always acting like the more evolved mammal.

So it is then Sunday night when [redacted] comes to Williams Arena, the Gophers will have a chance to change the trajectory of this rivalary. Tubby Smith's Gophers can send a message to the masses in Minnesota that no longer shall we allow Bo Ryan free reign over our best and brightest recruits.

Unfortunately, the Gophers aren't in the same class this season as the [redacteds]. Their only loss in the Big Ten has been a respectable one, 60-56 at upstart Purdue. Our rivals to the east just handled Indiana at home. We should remember Michael Flowers' game-altering, perhaps season-changing steal against the Texas Longhorns that has given this new version of [redacteds] confidence.

And that's been why Bo Ryan has been so damn frustrating, and unfortunately this is a compliment: He has been able to avoid rebuilding. Devin Harris and Alando Tucker gone from a 30 win team (that ended with a thud in the NCAAs) and Ryan has the [redacteds] again at the top of the conference.

How? Flowers, a senior, is one reason. He might be the best defensive guard in the conference. Center Brian Butch has seen his playing time increase along with his production in his final season in Madison. Junior forward Marcus Landry has stepped in to play big minutes. Joe Krabbenhoft has steadily become a reliable contributor for Ryan. An then there is sophomore Trevon Hughes, who is blossoming in his sophomore year.

Some of the names are new. Others aren't. And that's been the whole point for Ryan. His teams win. Unlike the star-led Ohio State Buckeyes, Ryan wins with a functiniong group that forces teams to play their style. It's effective. We should respect the success. But also want to help end it.

As you'd expect, the [redacteds] lead the conference in scoring defense, allowing just 54 points per game. They hold down the defensive boards. But this group isn't without fault. Among Big Ten teams, the [redacteds] are below-average in the turnover department. And if Minnesota has a strength, it's the Tubby Smith generated pressure defense.

If the Gophers want to continue to dream about the NCAAs--and yes, emailers, I believe there is an outside chance--they absolutely need to win Saturday. [Redacted] could end up conference champions. Having already given away games at home to Michigan State and Indiana, beating [redacted] is a must.

Be ready to gloat to your easterly friends if:

1) Spencer Tollackson and Dan Coleman can score consistently on the inside as they did against Michigan.

2) The Gophers are creating turnovers and scoring in transition.

3) Lawrence McKenzie puts the team on his shoulders as he has done in two consecutive second halves.

4) The Badgers are unsuccessful in controling pace. The Gophers would rather play in the high-60s, low-70s. Not so for the [redacteds].

Prediction: Unfortunately, I don't think this Gophers team has what it takes to upset a top ten team. [Redacted] plays good, smart basketball and aren't prone to long stretches of poor play, as our Gophers are. When the [redacteds] lost to Purdue, that came in part beacuse of the pressure the Boilermaker guards applied on their opponent. The Gophers can do the same thing, but I don't think the Gophers can convert offensively as well as Purdue did. Pick: Wisconsin 64, Minnesota 59.

11 comments:

Friend Of Tubby said...

I think Gophers W by 2. We'll C.

lonebadger said...

Good luck to you and your fine university.(lonebadger takes the high road, for now.)

PJS said...

Cool, LB. Say hello to Dennis Green up there for me!

lonebadger said...

I don't think you guys have to win this one to get into the NCAA's. If you beat who you should you'll end up with more than 20 wins and an invite. And your team might not have what it takes to beat the top ten teams in the country, but the Badgers would hardly qualify as one of those teams.

PJS said...

No reason to play down expectations. The Gophers are putting out a stinker so far today.

lb said...

Not a horrible half for the Gophs. Bucky is just came out hot. If they can get third fouls on Flowers and Hughes, they still have a chance.(Ball handling and D.)

lb said...

Sorry, I just checked the Gopher's schedule. I thought they had more winnable games left for some reason. Looks like a deep Big Ten tourney run is going to be in order.

lonebadger said...

By the way PJS, thank you very much. This is the closest to famous I'll ever be.

PJS said...

Awwww. Glad I could help!

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