Fear the Gopher!!!

Yes, our mascot, Goldy, is awesome.  Remember the movie Caddyshack?

Sorry, got to root for the Gophers.  U of M undergrad, starting at the McCombs School though this fall for my MBA.  At least if the Gophers lose, I can still root for UT over Duke.

Here is what you need to know about MN:

1.)  Great coach.  Unless you are from Kentucky (which also means winning a national championship gets you very little in terms of job security) you can't argue against him being a great coach.  He has had success every where he has been.  Remember when Tulsa and Georgia were actually relevant in basketball for a few years?  Yeah, Tubby was at both of those schools, too.

2.)  Great Defense.  All of our players will play defense all the time.  Damian Johnson is probably the best defender in the Big 10.  Ralph Sampson III is also a tremendous shot blocker.  Al Nolen started off the year as a great player on both ends of the floor.  Nolen absolutely shredded Louisville.  Of late, he has not been good offensively, but still very good defensively.  Teams struggle against Minnesota's press.  Unfortunately, we just don't do it enough.

3.)  Depth.  Much of the season, Tubby Smith has employed mass substitutions, often subbing in 3-5 players at a time.  Our 6-9 guys are interchangeable and provide sparks off the bench.  Two of our better bench players, Devron Bostick and Paul Carter were two of the highest touted JUCO transfers in the country.  There just aren't enough minutes to go around, but they are starting to get more.

4.)  Streaky.  We have had an up and down season.  We have very good wins against Louisville, Ohio State, Illinois, Wisconsin (twice).  All of those teams are in the tournament.  We have no bad losses, so we usually keep it close.  Our worst game of the year by far was in East Lansing against Michigan State.  That was an abberation.

In addition to being streaky win-loss wise, we have had a story of two halves of the season in respect to shooting as well.  We actually set an NCAA record earlier in the year by going 9-9 from 3 point land against Penn State.  Since that time, we haven't been good at all from behind the arc.

5.)  Youth.  We only have two seniors and they don't have big roles.  As a result, we can seemingly lack on the floor leadership at times.  This can be good or bad.  On one hand, you don't know who is going to turn it on.  On the other hand, you don't know who to depend on.  As far as scoring big baskets go, junior Lawrence Westbrook (cousin of Brian Westbrook - RB Philadelphia Eagles) is the one to hit circus shots in the clutch.  Unfortunately, he can also be out of control at times.  But with the game on the line, his wild shots more often than not seem to find their way in the basket.  Our other relative of fame, Ralph Sampson III, is a 6'11" freshman who is a tremendous shot blocker and has shown the ability to take over the game defensively while offering solid contributions on the offensive side of the ball as well.

I think this should be a typical 7/10 game and close the whole way.  Even if one team or another gets up 10-12, it will tighten up at the end.  I think the depth of the Big 10 definitely makes us battle tested and ready for a team like Texas.

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