Iowa City, Iowa - What's up? 

The Gophers face Iowa at 5 p.m. Sunday in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Here are five questions related to the matchup:

Will the Gophers respond to Tubby's criticism? 

After the Illinois loss Thursday, Tubby Smith didn't hold back. He singled out a number of players. He said he thought his words might "motivate and inspire" a struggling Gophers team.

Players said all of the right things during Saturday's pregame availability. But I didn't get the sense that they were energized by Smith's criticism.

I think this team has lost a lot of confidence. And I'm not sure how publicly scolding players will help them regain it.

Guys like Rodney Williams and Colton Iverson have struggled, but if they're unsure of themselves, they'll continue to play that way.

Smith said he's coaching "boys," not last year's "men." It was a reference to last season's experience and this year's inexperience. But again, I don't know how that helps Austin Hollins, Chip Armelin and Maverick Ahanmisi feel more confident about their collective ability to help this team get out of this tight spot.

Perhaps it's the kick that this team needs. But it's also possible that it's the push that it absolutely doesn't need at such a low point in the season.

Will the Gophers make the NCAA tournament? 

It's too early to tell.

But they're certainly on the bubble. They have a 37 RPI now. A loss to Iowa (No. 147 RPI) might be devastating.

As last year proved, the Gophers could collapse in their last six games, make a run in the Big Ten tournament and squeeze into the Big Dance.

This year, however, the Gophers are/were expected to advance in the NCAA tournament.

Now they're in their third consecutive fight to just earn a bid. Their resume, however, is still anchored by big wins over Purdue, West Virginia and UNC.

Who's to blame for the problems? 

It's on Tubby.

Yes, players have left. Others are injured. Big blows for any team.

But despite the problems, this team has the talent to beat the league's midlevel squads.

They lost to Indiana because they weren't ready to go. They couldn't finish against Illinois.

Tubby runs the show and it's up to him to figure out and fix the problems.

That's why he makes $2 million a year.

The massive salaries of Division I college basketball coaches have put him in this position.

The big money means that coaches are charged with finding ways to win, regardless of the circumstances.

After the Illini loss, Tubby said he doesn't have "a magic wand." Still, he's expected to find one.

How will Wisconsin's win over Ohio State impact Sunday's game? 

Somewhere in Iowa City, the Hawkeyes watched the Badgers knock off the unbeaten, top-ranked Buckeyes.

"We were one shot away from beating that team this week," they were probably thinking.

Now, they're coming into this matchup as winners of two of their last three games. And they just lost in overtime to a Badgers team that's going to be top-10 when the Associated Press releases its new top-25 poll Monday.

The Hawkeyes have the confidence that their opponents have lost.

Could be a bad day in Iowa City for the Gophers.

Will Tubby change his starting lineup? 

It's possible. During Saturday's pregame press conference, he said he might switch back to the big lineup with three post players.

Prediction: I think the Gophers have too much brawn inside to lose this game. But I think it will be very close.

Gophers 58, Iowa 57 (I'm 19-5 this season)

 

 

 

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