Thanks to some last-minute tickets from a co-worker, we made our first appearance of the Gophers men's hoops season at Williams Arena Tuesday night. As such, you will be subjected to a few thoughts from a sudden "expert."

*Sure, Indiana is terrible. The Hoosiers don't look like a Big Ten team. It looked like Blake Hoffarber wanted to punch the pesky little fella guarding him right in the face during parts of the second half. A win, however, is a win -- even if you wouldn't know it by taking the pulse of a very concerned Gopher Nation. Everyone: please calm down. This is still a good team that can get better. Why? Well ...

*This is Al Nolen's team now. Losing Devoe Joseph hurts some with depth. And he was a guy who could shoot a team to a victory (as he did at last year's Big Ten tourney). But if there is one guy to build the identity of this team around, it is Nolen. And having Joseph out of the way might end up being the best thing that happens to this squad. Nolen was huge in the second half and had this overall line last night: 14 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals. He was driving to the basket and making a stagnant offense look somewhat functional over the final 20 minutes. He was a defensive presence on the perimeter. It was the Nolen we remembered from the tournament in Puerto Rico, back when it was also his team. If we see more of that, the Gophers will be fine at guard.

*Rodney Williams doesn't jump. He levitates. He continues to add polish to a game that is still raw. But put him in the right situations -- posting up against smaller guards, isolating him on the wing (while imploring him to drive) -- and he will be an asset going forward.

*Trevor Mbakwe might be our favorite Gophers player in a long time. His block at the rim last night (one of five in the game to go with 11 points and 16 rebounds) was ridiculous.

*If you are still hyperventilating: look at the Gophers' schedule. Can you seriously not find 10 or 11 wins in there once things settle down?

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