Step one: Take care of business in the early non-conference schedule against (much) weaker opponents.
Step two: Take two of three (any two, from that field) at the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas.
Now it’s time for step 3 for the Gophers: to build on their early successes and improve.
No. 21 Minnesota, having just made it into the AP top 25 after big-time performances from Andre Hollins and Trevor Mbakwe, is looking to make a statement tonight against Florida State in Tallahassee. Yes, they are no doubt tired from a long trip and three consecutive (and grueling) games.
But if this squad is a team that can both get to the NCAA tournament and make a splash there, it needs to take care of business again tonight in the ACC-Big Ten challenge.
The Seminoles were ranked at No. 25 in the AP poll at the start of the season, but after dropping their first game of the season to South Alabama, there have been questions. Florida State has won its four games since that Nov. 9 loss, but it hasn’t dominated lesser opponents the way the Gophers have.
Still, the Gophers will need to be on their game to pull out a third consecutive win and improve their national stock.
Some notes on tonight’s game:
· Starting guard Ian Miller missed FSU’s last game – against North Florida – with a right foot injury, but the Seminoles hope to have him ready to play tonight vs. Minnesota.
· The roster: Michael Snaer is one of the best shooting guards in the country and leads the team with 16 points and 6.4 rebounds a game. Okaro White (14 points, 5.6 rebounds) is a productive and super athletic wing that will make for an interesting matchup with Rodney Williams. Terrance Shannon -- who has actually asked coach Leonard Hamilton to not start him because he likes being the energy off the bench -- has been a force in the paint as a reserve, and will match the Gophers’ second-wave energy when Mbakwe enters.
· FSU hasn’t been ranked since preseason, but it has received votes every week. This week the Seminoles received 10 votes.
· The Seminoles have the best shooting percentage from the field in the ACC, making 51.9 percent of their shots.
· Gophers coach Tubby Smith is 2-3 in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge with Minnesota. Wins: Virginia (2008), Virginia Tech (2011); Losses: FSU (2007), Miami (2009), Virginia (2010).
· Both teams are very defensive-oriented. Who will be able to stop who? So far, the Gophers have the better opponent shooting percentage, allowing teams to score 35.7 percent of the time, while FSU gives up 40.5 percent.