Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Gophers Have Second Chance To Topple Hoosiers

It's never a good time to face DJ White and Eric Gordon in Assembly Hall. The combo has demonstrated they can lead Indiana to a run deep into March. But, when the Gophers visit the Hoosiers Wednesday night, the matchup might actually be coming at the right time.

The Gophers should be riding high after putting together 20 really strong minutes in the second half against Ohio State. Lawrence McKenzie, albeit it late in the season, has finally started to play on the offensive end with a dogged determination. Meanwhile, the Indiana Hoosiers are coming off an embarrassing destruction at the hands of Michigan State. A loss like that for the Hoosiers was to be expected, given that the team has been through on hell of a gauntlet having lost their head man during the stretch run of what could have been, and still could be, a special season.

While Indiana's loss to Michigan State was shocking, what could be worse for the Hoosiers is a subsequent letdown. A regular season Big Ten title will likely wind up in Purdue or Wisconsin, a fact that must leave the Hoosiers wondering what they are playing for (never mind who they are playing for).

So, I'm saying there's a chance ... for the Gophers to win.

When Indiana came to Williams Arena earlier this season, the Gophers did everything they had to do to beat the Hoosiers. They shut down Eric Gordon. They caused turnovers and scored in transition. The only ingredient that was missing was free throw shooting, where the Gophers, namely Spencer Tollackson, shot horrifically from the stripe. Had the free throw line actually been charitable, the Gophers would have beaten the Hoosiers and that would have given them a legitmate leg to stand on as Selection Sunday approaches.

To win at Indiana, the Gophers need to do many of the same thigns that were effective during the first meeting. Frustrating Gordon is essential, and the best way to do that is have a longer, taller defender effect his outside jump shot--a good task for Damian Johnson. Additionally, the Gophers need to hold down the glass the way they did against Othello Hunter, Kosta Koufos and the Ohio State Buckeyes. The task is tougher agaisnt an Indiana team that has the best big man in the country.

Most importantly, in my opinion, the Gophers need to play consistent basketball. They need to move the ball consistently on offense and get good shots. When the Gophers have had ugly stretches this year, that has been caused in part by a lack of offensive continuity. Early on, the Gophers need to get Dan Coleman and easy look or two. Same goes for Lawrence McKenzie. If the Gophers can get both of those seniors going, that will open up lanes for Lawrence Westbrook and pull perimeter defenders off of Blake Hoffarber.

It will be an up hill battle, and while the Hoosiers could be down on themselves, I expect a raucous IU crowd to do their best to lift their team. But I think the Gophers pull a shocker and send the Dan Dakich led Hoosiers tumbling heading into tourney time. Pick: Minnesota 71, IU 69.