It’s been almost two weeks now since the Gophers have played at home, and from the sounds of it yesterday they are eager for the return.
The perception of a lull in the schedule to go along with their homecoming, however, might be a little deceiving. The next three games, in fact, could actually be challenging for the Gophers.
Today they play North Florida at home, a team that doesn’t have the talent the Gophers do, but one that has experienced some of the same competition (Memphis and Florida State) and hung with those teams. Then the Gophers have a quick turnaround for South Dakota State, which hasn’t played up to its potential yet, but is always dangerous with the dazzling Nate Wolters. From there, the Gophers go back on the road, to Southern California to face an improved USC team.
Make no mistake – the Gophers should win all three of those games, just as they should win out the remainder of the non-conference schedule.
But this stretch will require the Gophers to maintain the same focus and intensity that they did through a long and successful road trip to the Bahamas and Florida State. And coming off an exhausting and momentous gamut such as that one, well, that might be the hardest time to hold that energy.
“I think our guys, coming off our road trip 3-1 are feeling pretty good about ourselves, but we know there’s a lot we have to do to improve on,” coach Tubby Smith said. “We’ve made some major improvements over the last week, but North Florida will give us another test.”
More notes on today’s game:
- North Florida has a small, thin lineup and so the Gophers should have the clear advantage on the boards. However, the Ospreys have held their own against good competition so far this season, playing with both Florida State and Memphis for long stretches before losing. North Florida, like the Gophers, turn the ball over a lot, but they are also apt at causing miscues on the defensive end.
- The player to watch is 6-3 Parker Smith, who has racked up 17 points a game and is making more than half of his shots from 3-point range. Austin Hollins will likely be the one to get the matchup.
- Tuesday’s game at Florida State was probably the most complete contest the Gophers have played to this point, exhibiting a strong defense and balanced offense. Every starter except Elliott Eliason finished with double-digit points, and Eliason contributed with 10 rebounds. Joe Coleman had his best game since the preseason, finishing with 16 points, six rebounds and two turnovers.
*Today’s game is NOT on TV. You can watch it here, for a price.
*Listen to today’s game live on 1500-a.m.
*Check out my checklist for the Gophers in their remaining non-conference slate from today’s Star Tribune.
*Gophers-Florida State preview here.
*On the blog: Ellenson redshirting decision is still up in the air.
*On the blog: Can the Gophers be a top 3 team in the Big Ten?
*Eliason and others have earned their spots, but Mbakwe can help the team.