Friday, March 14, 2008

Keys For Gophers Against Indiana

When the Gophers tip off at 9pm eastern time tonight (or thereabouts), the Indiana Hoosiers will be looking to beat the Gophers for the third time this season. A common cliche tells us that is no easy task, but given the talent differential, the Hoosiers would have a decided advantage no matter how many times in a row they had beaten Minnesota.

Eric Gordon is the best player in the Big Ten. While the Gophers have actually done better than most in slowing him on offense, he found numerous ways to beat the Gophers in the teams meeting most recently at Assembly Hall. While Gordon's shot wasn't falling, he'd penetrate and get himself to the foul line. Or, he'd penetrate and quickly adjust to the collapsing defense and kick to a wide open three point shooter.

Key #1 for the Gophers tonight is to keep Gordon in front of them. This is no easy task. He's shifty, deceptively quick and the Gophers don't have the type of shut-down defender needed to stop all parts of Gordon's game. Lawrence Westbrook drew the defensive match up in the last meeting most of the time and he did well to force Gordon to use the dribble. That's all well and good, but the Gophers either need to rotate much more efficiently when Gordon penetrates and kicks or Westbrook needs to both force Gordon to dribble and keep him in front. Limiting Gordon might be the biggest key tonight. We won't be able to stop him completely, but if we can limit his outside shooting and rebounding some, the Gophers have a chance.

Key #2 for the Gophers is finding a way to keep up with DJ White and company on the glass. With Spencer Tollackson iffy at best, the Gophers will have to rely on two forwards not known for banging in Dan Coleman and Damian Johnson. Jon Williams will be the biggest body we can throw out there, but he is prone to so many mistakes in other aspects of the game. That means all five players need to crash the boards defensively the way Westbrook, Blake Hoffarber, Al Nolen and others did in the second half against Northwestern. In Indiana, the Hoosiers killed the Gophers on second chance points. If that happens again, the Gophers have no chance.

Key #3 for the Gophers is offensive consistency. Playing 10 to 20 minutes of miserable basketball might not kill you against a team like Northwestern. It will against Indiana. And this is most important on the offensive end. The Gophers need to create offense early, be aggressive, draw contact and get to the line. Dan Coleman, Lawrence Westbrook and Lawrence McKenzie need to get going quickly. If those three are all in double digits, the Gophers have a decent shot at making the upset. The Gophers also need to have in inside presence. That means giving the ball to Coleman or Johnson in the post. We can't be completely perimeter oriented against the Hoosiers.

Key #4 for the Gophers is coaching. Tubby Smith has so much more experience than Dan Dakich that he really ought to be able to coach circles around the interim Indiana head man. Maybe we'll see this play out with the Gophers switching up defenses regularly, doubling Gordon or White when necessary and simply managing the game. Pay close attention to the first five minutes of each half and the last five minutes of the first half. Who is controlling the tempo here? Who wastes momentum building possessions and which coach best manages the game? It better be Tubby!

Finally, key #5 is passion. The first half against Northwestern was beyond distressing. It was one thing, inexcusable though it was, for Dan Coleman to get beat on multiple back doors. It was quite another for the entire team to be flat for 20 minutes. This is the Big Ten Tournament fellas, it's time to lay it all out there. On Every Possession. Indiana is sort of down on its luck, and could be prone for an upset. It won't happen if the Gophers don't play every possession as if it were there last.

Prediction: I've twice picked the Gophers to upset Indiana this season and twice I've been so wrong. Hopefully I'll be wrong again here because I'm picking the Hoosiers. The Gophers have still not but together 40 full minutes of strong play and have yet to do what it takes to upset anyone. It's hard to predict that will start tonight. Pick: Indiana 65, Minnesota 58.


The Sports Guy said...

Hey PJS - thanks for the update.

If you listen to Sid, it really is hard to beat a team three times in one season (we did yesterday, haha).

I love how you have time to update the blog, but Myron Medcalf has nothing on the Trib blog. This guy has to go - what is he doing in Indianapolis? I know you agree with me, but this guy is brutal at what he does.

I'll take his position for half of what they're paying him.

PJS said...

My time comes and goes. Some weeks I'm very busy and the # of posts drops. Other times I'm less busy and have time for this hobby.

I've decided to stop bashing Myron. I think I got my point across earlier this season as have others.

Dave said...

Funny how a few hours after the above comment was posted, a post finally appears on the gopher gold blog...

Thanks for the good work PJS

PJS said...

Thanks, Dave. I'm resisting the urge to take a cheap shot at our friendly newspaper reporter.

On another note, I'll have an announcement soon about how I'm going to expand from this little hole in the Internet. Exciting things on the horizon, but we're still in the design stage (hint, hint)!

Toadem said...

I saw some out-coaching, some phenomenal play by Johnson, some very strange and pathetic calls by the officials, and yet another Hoffarber shot out of his ying yang! Go Goph's 3PM Sat. THIS IS WHY YOU PAY THE MAN

Toadem said...

Oh, one more thing - checking my TIVO. Was that really Busch on the inbound? Are you kidding me? The dude logged WAY too many minutes in this game, and I told myself at half that if he sees any more floor, they are doomed. You can't make this stuff up...

PJS said...

Busch was great tonight. Yes it was him. Let's take the convo to the game recap post. What a game it was toadem!!!

He's THAT Good said...

I was there. Just got home.

He's THAT good.

Hoffarber, I mean.

And Damien Johnson, too.

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