The Gophers take on the Colorado State University Rams in their second straight game against green and gold wearing teams named after hoofed animals from the great plains. Saturday night’s game should go much the way of the NDSU game, except with higher expectation’s for the Gophers.
In what has become a bit of a theme for Gopher opponents this year, Colorado State ended last year looking to build off of a moderately successful season. The Rams finished the season 17-13, and won against Utah, Kansas State, and BYU. Last year’s Rams were led by Jason Smith, currently in the NBA, but returned 4 starters and expected to build off of what was, for Colorado State at least, a successful season. Jason Smith left just in time. Instead of returning 4 starters, the Rams only return one, along with only one reserve. Three players transferred, and one was kicked off the team after pointing a gun at a teammate’s head. And we thought the Gophers were responsible for strange scandals. The resulting departures have left a very depleted teams, as this years CSU basketball team is without 85 percent of their offense, 92 percent of their assists and 84 percent of their rebounding, which means to understand this year’s team, all we really have to look at is this year.
Outside the state of Alaska, Colorado State is not a very good basketball team. They won their first two exhibition games, and then did about as well as the guy from Grizzly Man against Montana, losing 75-39. For those who haven’t seen Grizzly Man, its the story of a guy who think all bears, regardless of whether they have large claws, big teeth, and can run 40 mph for short distances, are nice and cuddly, that is until they eat him alive. After that drubbing, they traveled to Alaska, where coincidentally Grizzly Man was filmed, and put together a nice run knocking off Oregon State, Tennessee State, and Portland State. Then they got on roller-coaster, getting blown out by Stanford, blowing out Arkansas-Pine Bluff, getting blown out by Northern Colorado (which has a basketball team. Who knew?) and beating Denver 44-40, which must have been painful to watch. To offer a bit of context, the lowest scoring Gopher game last year was their 49-40 loss to Michigan in the Big Ten tournament.
By all accounts, the Gophers should win big. They seemed to work out most of their kinks against NDSU, though with this group, there will always be room to improve. Dan Coleman seemed to remember that he is 6’9″ and had an impressive game, at least in the box score. Spencer Tollackson didn’t dominate but he was at least a factor. The Gopher guards got a good work out against NDSU and dominated. Saturday, the Gopher big men will face a very surmountable challenge.
CSU returns two 7-footers. Stuart Creason is averaging 12 points and 6 rebounds per game while reserve center Ronnie Aguilar has improved his scoring exponentially (from 2 points in 11 games to 2 ppg). At least he will be more formidable than an assistant coach waving a broom in front of the basket. The six new players (two are transfers and must sit out a season), as expected, provide most of the punch in the Rams line up. Marcus Walker and Willie Gardner, two JuCo transfers, are the teams two leading scorers. Walker scored 43 points against Tennessee State, but has since come down to earth and is averaging 15 ppg. Willie Gardner averages close to 13 ppg and leads the team in assists. It will be interesting to see how they handle the Gopher press. The rest of the Rams are freshman, who have never faced a crowd like the one at Williams Arena. Judging by the available tickets for the game, The Barn should be full. Because I like round numbers, I predict that the Gophers will win 80-60.
The Gophers should win big, and if they don’t it is a real cause for concern. So far Minnesota has faced a cupcake filled schedule, and have won big. The big wins against tough teams may be a year away. This year may be more defined by how the team wins and loses than who they win and lose against.