East Lansing, Mich. - Let's face it, folks. This is a bad place for the Gophers (12-4, 3-1 Big Ten).
They haven't won at the Breslin Center since 1997.
I still think Minnesota's matchup at Michigan State (13-3, 3-0 Big Ten) Wednesday, however, is the team's best opportunity to get a win under Tubby Smith, who hasn’t beaten Tom Izzo during his tenure with the Gophers.
But the No. 7 Spartans are still very good. But they've had enough in-game breakdowns to make them look somewhat vulnerable at times.
And I still think they're searching for a leader to get them through the tough times, after losing Goran Suton and Travis Walton.
Minnesota proved that it could battle the best when it went toe-to-toe with Purdue last week. The Boilermakers pulled away in the second half because Minnesota didn't have enough offensive firepower to keep up with them.
That can't happen Wednesday.
Last year, the Gophers got smacked in the face in the opening minutes of a 76-47 loss at Michigan State. I've never seen a team get the wind knocked out of it so quickly.
At halftime, the Spartans led 42-16. It could've been 100-10 based on the way they started.
Durrell Summers scored 17 points before the Gophers had 10 in their last regular season meeting.
But the Gophers have more experience and length in the paint. Michigan State finished a loss against Florida with 23 turnovers. Reigning Big Ten Player of the Year Kalin Lucas had nine turnovers in his first two Big Ten games. They’re not invincible.
Minnesota's toughest task, however, will be stopping Michigan State's runs. If the Spartans start fast, Minnesota will find itself in an inescapable pit. The Gophers have to start the way they did against Purdue.
And they have to finish the way they did against Ohio State Saturday.
Prediction: I'm sure the streak will end one day. I just don't think that day will be Wednesday. Against good teams, away from Williams Arena, the Gophers have struggled this year. They haven't been able to find a good rhythm. The Gophers got a good win against Ohio State, but I think they'll have a tough time maintaining that momentum against the Spartans.
Minnesota 64, Michigan State 74
-PG Cory Joseph (Las Vegas, Findlay Prep), Minnesota's top target in the 2010 class, is still seriously considering the Gophers, according to a new interview in DIME magazine.
"Minnesota's really cool and obviously, they've got my brother there," he told DIME's Jason Jordan. "I really have a lot of respect for Coach Smith and I really like the players.
"When I went for my visit, I had a good time with everyone. I'm not saying that they have an extra edge because they have my brother, but that is attractive to me. I mean, he's my brother! In the end though, I'm gonna do what's best for me. But they're definitely one of the schools I'm looking hard at."
One source close to the team said recently that Joseph told Gophers coaches that Minnesota's one of three finalists for his services.
-An untelevised shoving match followed Minnesota’s win over Ohio State Saturday. Both Tubby Smith and Thad Matta said they didn’t know who started it.
Multiple sources, however, said the incident began when Ohio State’s Dallas Lauderdale said something to Gophers point guard Al Nolen after the game. Another source close to the team said Lauderdale punched Colton Iverson and Rodney Williams.
Suspended forward Trevor Mbakwe looked like he was trying to keep the peace and protect his teammates from the 6-8 Lauderdale.
As soon as the scrum started, a Gophers media relations official pulled Lawrence Westbrook away from it all.
From where I was sitting, I could only see the pushing and shoving. For someone who didn’t know what happened, Smith was certainly upset with the whole situation in the postgame press conference.
Matta suggested that the officials should have done something to stop all off the back-and-forth trash-talking that occurred throughout the game.
-When the Gophers face the Buckeyes in Columbus, Ohio, Jan. 31, the school is planning to honor Ohio State’s 1960 national championship squad. Every living member of that team, including Bob Knight, is expected to attend the ceremony.
-Are the Boilermakers legit?
Purdue's lost back-to-back games after getting off to the best start in school history. And in conference play, the
Boilermakers have proven that they're extremely dependent upon an outstanding trio of JaJuan Johnson, Robbie Hummel and E'Twaun Moore. With no bench and zero consistent playmakers outside of that group, it's hard to see how they'll make a deep run in March.
Entering Minnesota's matchup at Purdue last week, I thought I was about to view a Final Four team that had just hit its midseason stride. Instead, I watched a Boilermakers squad that lacks the depth to handle good teams that have it.
While the Gophers couldn't pull off the upset, they certainly frustrated the Boilermakers and proved that they need good performances from the Big 3 to get wins against good defensive teams. Johnson scored 11 points in the team's two losses.
Purdue has to find another consistent offensive threat and get more production from its bench to make it Indianapolis.
-Lansing State Journal on Wednesday's game between the Gophers and Spartans: "This was a bad matchup for the Gophers last season. No reason to think things will be different this time around. Make it MSU 73, Minnesota 62."
-Following the Ohio State win Saturday, Gophers coach Tubby Smith and Saul Smith watched Iowa sophomore point guard Marcus Paige score 20 points in his Linn-Mar team's win over Minnetonka at the Target Center in the Timberwolves Shootout, according to scout.com.
The Gophers are going after three good point guards in their upcoming recruiting classes: Joseph (2010), St. Paul Johnson’s Estan Tyler (2011) and Paige (2012). My question: Where are the bigs and playmakers?