JF

With their chance to go the NCAA tournament this year all but dashed, Dan Coleman, Spencer Tollackson, and Lawrence McKenzie are in real danger of being known more for what they did not do than what they accomplished.

They did make it the NCAA tournament three years ago on a team actually led by seniors that understood it was their last time to shine. That team, led by previously woeful Aaron Robinson, previosly underutilized Jeff Hagen, and previous overlooked Brent Lawson consistently improved and overachieved throughout their careers. This year’s seniors have done neither.

Other things they have not done include:

  • Beating Illinois
  • Winning at Michigan State
  • Winning at Iowa
  • Winning at Wisconsin
  • Beating an NCAA team on the road

Because of the Big Ten’s uneven scheduling, winning at Iowa is impossible, but the other four are very possible. Numbers four and five on the list could disappear as soon as tomorrow, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

I still don’t know what happened the other night at The Barn. One would think that a supposedly senior led team, still with a chance, albeit not a great one) of making the NCAA tournament would be able to handle one of the worst teams in the conference. Maybe they had already given up on the season. Maybe Illinois is a lot better than their record indicates (probably true) or maybe the Gophers were looking ahead to the Wisconsin game. I have no idea why the Gophers would think they are good enough to look past anyone, but assuming that was the case, they better be prepared for the Badgers.

Other than the Gophers falling out of contention for consequential post-season play and Wisconsin losing again to Purdue, there aren’t any big differences between Saturday’s game and the last time the two rivals played each other. Wisconsin is still a favorite to win the Big Ten, and Minnesota still hasn’t beat any non-terrible teams.

Two weeks ago the Badgers beat the Gophers from the opening tip, in the first of Minnesota’s completely uninspiring performances. In that game the Gophers were able to contain Wisconsin’s front court, but in doing so left the Badger back court wide open. Trevon Hughes scored 20 points and Brian Butch and Marcus Landry each added 11. The Badgers outshot Minnesota by 13%, and got to the free throw line twice as often as the Gophers.

Expect more of the same tomorrow. Minnesota was blitzed by Illinois on Tuesday, the same Illini that until then were one of the worst shooting teams in the country. Minnesota once vaunted turnover creating defense has gone into hibernation as the winter has worn on. And, I don’t think I need to write much about the free throw disparity that the Badgers regularly enjoy at the Kohl Center.

After Minnesota’s surprising loss to Illinois, they have shown that the odds makers can’t pick all their games right, and  win at Wisconsin would be just as much of an aberration as their worst home loss since 1992, but I just don’t see it happening.

Expect Tubby to give his underachieving seniors a chance, but also expect them to see very little playing time if they aren’t getting the job done. With Minnesota all but eliminated from NCAA Tournament contention, the future is now, and Minnesota’s underclassmen need all the court time they can get, especially in a hostile environment.

Prediction: Wisconsin 65 – Minnesota 48