Since Minnesota defeated MSU on New Year's Eve, both teams have gone in opposite directions. MSU remains in the thick of the Big Ten title race, while the Gophers have lost four in a row. GoAUpher from The Daily Gopher answers some questions about what has happened since then and what to expect Wednesday. You can read my answers to his questions here.
1. First off, what has happened to the Gophers in the past few weeks? Is this slide just a product of a tough schedule, or was a weakness revealed?
A little of both, but it has been more of the latter. The first two losses to IU and Michigan were frustrating but not alarming. They made it clear that the Gophers were not an elite team and highlighted our issues with turnovers as being very glaring. The Wisconsin loss wasn't great, but I know you guys know how frustrating playing on the road at the Kohl Center can be and the Gophers were ice cold from the field to boot. But that Northwestern game... In the end, the recent stretch has revealed a few key concerns.
This team still struggles with stupid (and not so stupid) turnovers. Given the fact that this team is still a very strong offensive rebounding group that sin becomes even more unforgiveable. The team has also struggled with getting the ball into the post. This has been most frustrating because they seem to get away from feeding the big guys at precisely the time they need to be getting the ball (when guys like Trevor Mbakwe is the hot hand or when the opposing bigs are in foul trouble). Their last weakness has been foul shooting.
2. At the halfway point, how would you assess the Gophers in Big Ten play overall? Do you give them a shot to finish in the top three of the league, still?
I'd call it a missed opportunity. The Gophers could have won the NU and UW games (that's really a should in the case of the NU game). Doing so would would have them in a tie for 2nd right now. Looking ahead, I don't see them finishing in the top 3 if they continue their current level of play. If things continue as they have, I think the ceiling for the Gophers is 4th with a chance to fall to 6th.
3. What are three keys to victory for the Gophers on Wednesday?
My three keys would be:
- Limit turnovers, especially stupid ones that are completely preventable.
- Get running in transition and score as many fastbreak points as possible. Our halfcourt offense has been attrocious at times recently.
- Make your free throws. You know you're not going to get many chances on the road in the B1G. Don't waste them.
4. Give me a score prediction and why.
In the end I don't see the Gophers winning this one. I think they doom themselves with turnovers and stagnent offense down the stretch. Call it a 10 point loss, 70-60.
Thanks again to GoAUpher for answering some questions. You can check out my answers to his questions over at The Daily Gopher.