Gophers will need more than momentum against No. 6 Boilermakers
- Blog Post by: Amelia Rayno
- March 13, 2010 - 10:53 AM
Indianapolis - The Conseco Fieldhouse buzz before the Gophers' amazing 72-67 overtime victory against Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals Friday night centered on an upset. No one really knew why.
There was just something about the way the Gophers' sacked the Nittany Lions Thursday night and the way Michigan State struggled against them in past games.
The Gophers played a great game in a tough situation. They played with heart.
Key moment for me:
Gophers coach Tubby Smith storms onto the court after a near-scuffle between Colton Iverson and Draymond Green in overtime. He was furious. Looked like he wanted to fight. Had to be restrained.
The 1998 Tubby Smith has returned, folks. The passion, the fire, the intensity and the efficiency.
And he's mixed that with more positivity. When Lawrence Westbrook picked up a late technical for trash-talking with Raymar Morgan, Smith could have pulled him out of the game, scolded him and sat him for the rest of overtime.
But Smith just held up his hands and told Westbrook to stay cool.
Think beating Tom Izzo for the first time since leaving Kentucky meant something to him?
Let's give the players a ton of credit, too.
They've stepped up in pressure situations down the stretch during the Big Ten tournament.
When he took over for Al Nolen, Devoe Joseph struggled. He had to learn a new role and position. But in recent games, he's achieved a new comfort level.
Against Michigan State, he told the Gophers to get on his back. In overtime. Like he wanted to remind everyone that he's the most important member of the Joseph family right now.
Westbrook is Westbrook. For every suspect play, he gives you something that makes you say, "I want that guy on the floor."
I was there. I saw the late turnover. But did you see the defense? Ask Kalin Lucas about it (6-for-17).
Blake Hoffarber shot well early. Think he felt disrespected when they stuck 5-11 Korie Lucious on him. He played like it.
As a team, the Gophers finished. That's been an issue this year. Not so much in the conference tourney.
The Michigan road loss is now an anomaly, no longer a sour reminder of their inconsistency. They've gone 6-2 in their last eight games.
Now comes their greatest test.
They're facing a Boilermakers squad that's essentially playing at home. In their minds, they've been written off, too. They're tired of the "they don't have a chance without Robbie Hummel" talk.
Plus, Conseco Fieldhouse will be packed with Purdue fans.
Saturday's matchup will feel like a true road game for the Gophers.
Under normal circumstances, I would bet against the Gophers. But I can't.
Too much Buster Douglas in them right now.
They're not backing down. They believe they're a tournament team. They'll prove it tonight.
Plus, I know the Boilermakers aren't the same team without Hummel.
Prediction: Minnesota 68, Purdue 65
Gophers need other bubble teams to lose
ESPN.com's Joe Lunardi lists the Gophers as the first team out of the NCAA tournament.
A couple of squads threaten to knock the Gophers' chances of earning a coveted at-large berth on Selection Sunday.
Illinois is probably a lock with its win over Wisconsin Friday.
Houston can steal a bid if it beats UTEP, a tourney lock, in the Conference USA final.
Mississippi State is on the bubble. A victory against Vanderbilt in the SEC tournament semifinals Saturday could lead to an at-large berth.
Miami faces Duke in the ACC tournament semifinals. If the Hurricanes win that tournament, they'll steal another bid.
Rhode Island is a lock, according to Lunardi, but a victory over Temple in the Atlantic 10 tournament semifinals would remove any doubt.
Washington, another bubble team, beating Cal in the Pac 10 tourney final would give that league two bids.
N.C. State isn't a bubble team but it's in the ACC tournament semis, so it has a shot.
Watch out for New Mexico State against Utah State, a lock to make the NCAA tourney, in the WAC tourney finals. A New Mexico State victory would also give another squad an unexpected at-large berth.
At the same time, if these bubble teams lose Saturday and Sunday, they'll help the Gophers.
Lunardi said the Gophers have to beat Purdue Saturday afternoon to earn "lock status."
What if the Gophers avoid a blow out but still lose to the Boilermakers? Will they get in?
"Not sure....too many other games of impact," Lunardi told me Saturday morning.
Jerry Palm, the founder of collegerpi.com, disagrees.
"To clarify – they have an outside shot with a win today, perhaps, but there is no chance that winning today and losing tomorrow guarantees them anything," he said.
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