JF

Over the last 24 hours or so, like many of you, I have been closely following the speculation, prognostication, and spin surrounding “Super Tuesday.” Instead of adding to the cacophony of pundits and talking heads, as much as I am tempted (Barack won), I think I’ll stick to basketball.

But imagine for a second, if you will, what basketball would look like if was run like “Super Tuesday.”

  • Each game would be played by its own rules.
  • We wouldn’t necessarily know the final score until a day or more after the game ended. (Go New Mexico! You are slower than American Samoa.)
  • The final score wouldn’t matter as much as where the points were scored. One team could win by 20, but if all their points were scored in paint while the losing team made free throws, mid range jumpers, and three pointers, a tie or even a win by the “loser” could be the result.

So why all this talk about politics when there is a basketball game tonight? Because not much has changed since the Gophers beat Northwestern a few weeks ago to open the Big Ten season. Northwestern still hasn’t beaten anyone in the Big Ten, and Minnesota hasn’t lost or won in surprising.

Even though the Gophers are struggling, coming of an embarrassing home loss to the dread team from the other side of the Saint Croix River, Minnesota should be able to beat the Wildcats. In past years Minnesota has struggled in Evanston, and I even predicted a loss for the Gophers at Northwestern in my ill-fated attempt of a Big Ten preview, but not even Minnesota’s road struggles and deflated confidence can overcome the sheer ineptitude of Northwestern. They would struggle in the MAC.

The Gophers will need to watch out for Northwestern’s trifecta of not completely untalented players. Kevin Coble took awhile to get back into game shape, but back he is. He leads Northwestern in both scoring and rebounding and put up 34 points against Michigan in early January. Yes, Northwestern lost by 10. Craig Moore continues to shoot lots of threes, and occasionally even makes them. Against MSU in late January, more made 7 three pointers and finished with 28 points. Northwesten lost by 16. Michael Thompson, like most freshman in the conference, has hit the wall. But even when he was playing well, Northwestern lost. For Northwestern to have a chance, their “big 3” will all need to have big games, and it still might not matter. (Click here for a more thorough discussion of worst case scenarios).

For the Gophers, another midweek game, another inferior opponents, more promised changes. Following the debacle last Sunday, Tubby Smith sounded like he had enough, but no one quite knows what this mean. The Gophers are simply too inconsistent for any coach to plan who will play how many minutes. He wanted to play the starters extended minutes against Wisconsin, but they would have been outclassed by a good high school team.

Tonight, given Northwestern’s lack of height, skill, rebounding, etc. I would love to see Tubby go small and try to run Northwestern out of the gym. Kevin Coble is NU’s tallest player at 6’8″ but plays on the perimeter. Neither of the Gopher centers would be able to guard him out there, and if Coble guarded Damian Johnson or Dan Coleman, both of whom I would like to see in the post, the Gophers should still be able to score inside relatively easily. Playing Spencer Tollackson and Jonathan Williams for limited minutes would also allow the Gophers to speed the game up, and not let Northwestern set up their zone defense and not control the pace of the game. Besides, if going small didn’t work, Minnesota should still be able to engineer a comeback or extend a lead against a much inferior opponent.

Minnesota should win, but the other day they looked like they were about ready to give up. Prediction: Minnesota 75- Northwestern 64.

And I must confess, tonight will be the first time that I am afflicted with BTN syndrome and I will not be able to watch the game. I’ll still review the game, but expect more criticism of bad journalism and less hard hitting insight. But the way I see it, if the Gophers win I won’t miss much, and if they lose, I don’t want to see.