My apologies if you were expecting even more detail than usual now that the Gophers have hit the big time, but their last two pre-Big Ten games just don’t deserve it. For the Michigan State game and the rest of the Big Ten season, we will be back to the standard format of bold predictions that couldn’t be more wrong and delving into the minutia that didn’t impact the outcome of the game.
In their last game, the Gophers beat the South East Louisiana Lions by 11 points on December 23 in a rather meaningless and barely watchable fashion. The Lions are a lot better than one would expect for a directional school from the deep south. They were probably more athletic than the Gophers, and well coached. In other words, last year’s team probably would have lost. This year, it was just another relatively easy win in which it would have been nice if the Gophers had played a little better and won by a few more points. I just can’t complain about a double digit win over a team that could be the NCAA tournament in a game played right after a program building victory and right before Christmas. Ask Gonzaga about this.
Today’s game against High Point should be ugly in favor the Gophers. Despite a rather famous alumnus (Tubby Smith), High Point is one of the worst teams in all of college basketball. Their 4-7 record at first glance appears to be standard for a mediocre small conference team at this time of year. However, only one of their wins was against a Division I team, and they lost to Presbyterian by 17 at home.
This just might be the perfect final non-conference team for the Gophers to face in their last game before the real fun starts. Tubby Smith should have plenty of opportunities to juggle line-ups, give extensive playing time to players that are still unknowns this time, and give some guys their last meaningful playing time of the season. Devron Bostick and Paul Carter should see plenty of playing time, as Tubby tries to figure out who Bostick is and how recovered Paul Carter is from his sprained ankle. Kevin Payton might even get a shot off.
For those of you looking for more, just open a newspaper or go to any number of websites that follow college basketball. There is officially “hype” surrounding the Gophers. Remember two years ago when the Gophers could barely make the sports section of local papers?