Oh those college basketball schedulers. After almost a week and half break, perhaps resulting from Veteran’s Day (or some other more obscure holiday that I am not aware of) the Gophers play Iowa State on Tuesday. Clearly, this is the biggest game so far in Tubby Smith’s career at Minnesota, and given the lack of success in recent year’s, this may be the most important game since the Gopher’s NIT loss to Cincinnati a few years back. The Gopher’s performance in Ames will tell us a bit more about how far this team has come, and what we can expect for the rest of the season.
If the Gopher’s play like they have so far this season, they have a very good chance of winning. Iowa State’s best player Wes Johnson is injured though he may still play. With Johnson’s impact on the game most likely diminished substantially, the Gopher’s lack of size (and fouls to give) may be less of a factor.
The Gophers should have won last year’s match-up, but as was so often the case, they blew a late lead and lost. However, Mike Taylor, who simply took over the second half of that game, has had all sorts of problems take over his life. He was kicked off the team after stealing cold medicine from Cub Foods.
Hilton Coliseum is a tough place to play (though may be quieter than usual based on the availability of tickets), and Iowa State is a significant step up in competition. Al Nolen, who by now deserves to be starting, will be playing his road game with the Gophers. Tubby will has had a week to prepare. Combining all these factors, you have a recipe for what should be a very entertaining game.
My prediction you ask? Gopher 73-66 in a game that will be much closer than the score suggests. This is a Gopher Blog after all.