The Gophers have a chance today to make this tournament a real success. To make a strong case that they are, in fact, an NCAA tournament-caliber team. To head to Florida State on a strong note.
The challenge today will be beating Stanford, a team that ended the Gophers’ momentous run seven months ago in the NIT championship game and a squad that has impressed in two games at the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas.
If the Gophers can beat Stanford, this tournament will be a triumph. If not, we are left with a mixed bag of results that keep us from making any real positive conclusions about Minnesota.
The team enters with plenty of momentum after last night’s momentous win over No. 19 Memphis. Can they keep it up? The Gophers’ great conditioning they’ve talked so much about this year will be tested in their third consecutive game.
Some other notes on today’s matchup:
• Stanford returns eight players from the team that crushed the Gophers in the NIT title game last season, including two of the top scorers from that game (Chasson Randle and Anthony Brown).
• Randle has scored a total of 43 points and added nine assists in the two Battle 4 Atlantis games so far.
• The Cardinal played Missouri – which lost yesterday to Louisville – very closely in the first round, coming within four points with 2:13 remaining.
• Stanford should have the size advantage in the paint, playing 6-10 Dwight Powell and 6-11 Stefan Nastic, but the Cardinal has only averaged 35 rebounds a game at the tournament, about where the Gophers are.
• Yesterday was mostly an Andre Hollins shooting fest. If the sophomore hadn’t scored 41, would other players have picked up some of the slack? I don’t know. But I do know that regardless of the very good player Hollins is becoming, that will not happen very often, so the Gophers are going to need to get some more production from guys like Austin Hollins and Joe Coleman, who have netted 13 and 14 points, respectively, in total for the two games.
• Trevor Mbakwe has been getting a lot of minutes with the starting five lately, and we’ve seen sparks of the explosive player we knew pre-ACL last season. Will we see him take over a game again soon? Please?
• Additionally, Julian Welch has been in a real slump to start the season and has scored just two points at Atlantis. The Gophers, with their occasional shooting struggles, really need him to be someone to take a big shot.
• It wasn’t pretty all the time, but No. 19 Memphis won its third game, against Northern Iowa, on Saturday to leave Atlantis 1-2. After two losses to unranked teams, it’s a good bet that the Tigers will be out of the AP top 25 on Monday, but a third consecutive loss to an unranked team would have been the dagger. The Gophers want Memphis to remain in contention so that their signature win over the Tigers on Friday continues to look impressive down the road.
- Where to watch today’s game:
*Direct TV: 340
*Dish Network: 131
*Comcast (Minneapolis): 420
*Comcast (St. Paul): 268 and 875
- Listen to today’s game live on 1500-a.m.
- If you missed the game yesterday, I’ve got plenty of stuff for you: