Dear Gophers fans:
Please do not rush the court tonight (as some have suggested on Twitter) should your team win. Your team is good enough to win. Michigan is No. 5, but your team is just a few spots down at No. 9. There is no reason to act like you don’t belong any longer. Your team SHOULD be in these games and if it wants to do anything special this year, certainly should win its home games. You’re not the scrappy underdog anymore. Get it?
It’s funny that statements like that still need to be said, nay, chanted almost among many Gophers fans that still seem as though they’re adjusting to the idea that their team – THEIR very own team – might truly, actually, maybe, somewhat, kind of, really be pretty good.
But the fact that they are is what makes tonight fun, what makes it sure to be an interesting and entertaining game. Enjoy this game for what it is, and what hasn’t happened at Minnesota since the late 90’s – a matchup with national implications. And if the Gophers win, go ahead, cheer, celebrate, jump up and down, throw your shoes (probably don’t do that) … but don’t rush the court. Because quite frankly, if the Gophers are who we think they are, they should.
Other notes on tonight’s matchup:
- All that above, that’s not to say it won’t be tough for the Gophers. It will be PLENTY tough because a) Michigan is a really, really strong team and b) the Wolverines will come in with perhaps a greater intensity than they even would otherwise after dropping their first game of the year at Ohio State. They will WANT this one.
- The matchup between Michigan and the Gophers will be an interesting one because despite some similarities, the two have some notable differences. Both teams have a lot of chemistry, very balanced scoring attacks, rely on athletic and like to get up-and-down, but beyond that the teams diverge. The Wolverines are very guard-oriented a shoot a ton of 3-pointers, an area the Gophers have trouble guarding. Without the same focus on a post game, the Michigan bigs could have trouble dealing with the aggressiveness of Trevor Mbakwe down low, even as the Gophers’ own athletic frontcourt neutralizes the Wolverines’ smallness. Michigan’s guards will be a force to be reckoned with as they can all hurt you with the drive, with the pass or with the deep 3. More on the backcourt matchup in the link below.
- One other thing in the Gophers’ favor: their experience. Last year, Minnesota relied heavily on two freshmen (Joe Coleman and Andre Hollins) and in general had a very young team that was learning on the fly. This year, Michigan has a little bit of that, with five freshmen getting significant minutes, including two (Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas) in the starting lineup. That youth showed on Sunday when the Wolverines looked panicked down the stretch – forcing contested 3-pointers-- even after they had recovered from a deep deficit. Going on the road with that greenness is tough. And should the Gophers provide a loud, hostile environment, it will make it even tougher.
- Andre Hollins has led the Gophers through the non-conference schedule so far, averaging 19 points a game.
- Trevor Mbakwe, over his last eight games, is averaging 10.8 points and 10 rebounds. He’s leading the league in rebounds with an average of 8.1 a game.
- The last time two top-10 teams met at Williams Arena, it was (coincidentally) the No. 10 Gophers (now at No. 9) and the No. 5 Wolverines (at No. 5 again now) in 1977.
- In all, Minnesota has recorded 15 all-time wins over top-5 teams, 13 of which have come in Williams Arena.
- Michigan was college basketball’s lone undefeated team before falling on Sunday at Ohio State.
- Both teams are coming off oddly similar losses in which they fell behind by more than 20 points on the road and came back to nearly win it.
- Trey Burke leads the Wolverines with 18 points a game. Tim Hardaway Jr. has scored in double figures in his last six games. Jordan Morgan is averaging eight rebounds a contest over his last four.
*Watch tonight’s game live on ESPN
*Listen to tonight’s game on 1500-a.m.
*Missed a chance to participate in my live chat today? That’s OK – read the replay here.
*On the blog: Why have the Gophers been so much better after halftime (and so much worse before)?
*On the blog: Where has all the bench productivity gone?
*More on the backcourt matchup in today’s Star Tribune.
*Checkout the quick preview here.