A long lay-off, holidays ahead, missing students, and finals finally being over could be the perfect recipe for a trap game when the Gophers take on Santa Clara on Saturday.
Santa Clara comes into the game with a 7-4 record in what has been a bit of an up and down season. In their most recent game against at Stanford, they were blown out of the gym right back to Santa Clara (which of course is not as impressive as being blown to Guam or Nauru). They do have a few decent wins (arguably better than what the Gophers have done) at Utah and at home against Montana. A win against the Gophers would solidify the Broncos as a team to pay attention to in the West Coast Conference.
Santa Clara is led by John Bryant, a 6’10” 305 lb center who is a year away from being christened “Big Archipelago.” With “Big Country”and “Big Continent” taken, why not go as obscure as possible. He leads the team in scoring and rebounding, and clearly wants to be the next Kris Humphries with a whopping 0.5 assists per game; all of this in 25 minutes per game. If he could string together a full 40 minutes, he’d be on the fast track to mega stardom. Instead, I have a sneaking suspicion there is nothing fast about his game.
Despite (or because of) the lack of athleticism, Bryant may pose a matchup problem for the Gophers who have been badly out rebounded in the last game and a half. Spencer Tollackson has had trouble rebounding against small skinny guys. Playing the obese version of himself probably won’t be pretty. The offensive kinks are nearly worked out (in the box score at least), Dan Coleman has found a sliver of aggression, and Lawrence McKenzie hasn’t hurt the team as he has adjusted to a malfunctioning groin and his new role as a “true” point guard, but rebounding and defense are suddenly a concern. With Santa Clara coming off a big loss, traveling cross country to the tundra, and playing their 9th road game of the year (including exhibitions), the Gophers could win just by effort. However, I’m not sure this will happen and am only expecting a 70-65 win.
Now for the important business of the day, the matter of Bucky the Bronco. Yes Virginia, there is another mascot named Bucky, and yes, he also has a propensity to wear red and white. For the few students who will be in attendance, it will be a great opportunity to get out the “Better dead than red” t-shirts and to get warmed up for the Big Ten season.
And I won’t be at the game. Instead I will be driving to Sioux Falls and Omaha and back, an exhilarating 10 hours round trip over two days. Lets hope for anything but a close game!