Golden Gophers vs. St. Joseph’s Hawks

3:00 pm (CST) at Williams Arena (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

Radio: WCCO 830 AM

TV: Big Ten Network

Tickets: Best available- Row 11 upper deck, corner

Stupid mascots never die, they just stand in the corner suffering from repetitive stress injuries. And that is exactly what will be on display on Saturday afternoon when the St. Joseph’s Hawks play the Gophers at Williams Arena.

Unlike a certain blogger that despises mascots, I don’t have a problem with them. They can be fun, a good publicity tool, and kids like them. Those kids become fans of the mascot, eventually a fan of the team, and eventually donors and season ticket holders. It all starts with a lanky drama student finding a release for his ADHD. I do have a problem with The Hawk.

“The Hawk Will Never Die” is the motto of St. Joe’s. It might not die, but it will grate on your nerves. Instead of The Hawk being a representative of the school and team, it is somehow bigger than the team, all because it “flaps” incessantly the game, the entire game, every game, forever. Some might find this fun and quirky, I just think it is stupid. Maybe if it actually flapped the entire game there would be something to admire, but all to often the flaps are reduced to involuntary muscle twitches a few minutes into the game. And we should admire this? Really, I feel bad for the players and the team. Have they been named the anything of the century? Where is their documentary?

Thank you for the opportunity to release my pent up Andy Rooney. It won’t happen again for at least a few weeks. On to basketball…

Saturday’s game will be an interesting exercise is the transitive property of basketball. A lot of fun can be had with extrapolating results from the results against common opponents. Using this incredibly flawed predictive mechanism, Duke can’t beat UW-Green Bay because the Fighting Phoenix beat Wisconsin who beat Duke, and the Gophers should be wary of The Hawks. They started the season 3-0 with wins over Holy Cross, Drexel, and Boston College. Boston College beat Miami on Sunday, and Miami of course beat the Gophers in the Big Ten – ACC challenge. Therefore, the Gophers will lose, except not. After that surprising win over Boston College, the bottom fell out of St. Joe’s season and they have since lost five straight games. There is no shame in losing to Villanova by 8 and to Purdue, though a 25 point margin should induce a bit of shame. Their other three losses to DePaul, Rider, and Cornell are just ugly, and number six should be right around the corner.

Despite a few rough games, the Gophers have improved in every area since last year except free throw shooting and offensive rebounding. Though it is probably just bad luck, opponents of The Hawks shoot free throws at a 77% clip. They also get killed on the offensive glass allowing opponents to rebound 38% of their misses. Unlike certain teams (coughthegopherscough) they are don’t make up for it by forcing turnovers, and face a barrage of field goal attempts that no defense could withstand. This isn’t hockey, but shots on goal do matter. Cornell was +2 on shot attempts, Rider was +8, Depaul +9, Purdue +22, Boston College +18, Holy Cross +16, and Drexel +13. They attempted the same number of shots as Villanova, and not coincidentally, played their best game of the season. If they had any ability whatsoever to rebound on the offensive end and play defense, they would be 5-2 instead of 3-5, and their three wins, all decided by two possessions or less or in overtime, would have been much easier victories. So far this season the Gophers are averaging more than 5 shots per game more than their opponents, and it will likely be double that tomorrow.

There should be a good a boisterous crowd tomorrow at The Barn, in spite of The Hawk. This is the premiere home non-conference game, and Saturday afternoons always bring their own bit of energy.

Keys for the Gophers

  • Find Devron Bostick a role in the rotation. The Gophers have only two true scorers, and Bostick is one of them. He doesn’t need to play 30 minutes per game to help the team, but he does need to know that he has a role and what that is. Last season he was visibly frustrated and seemingly confused as to how he could go from junior college player of the year to Kevin Payton’s bench buddy. A confident Bostick lengthens the bench, and gives Tubby Smith more freedom to press liberally on defense.
  • Rebound well. If the Gophers don’t dominate the glass, panic.
  • Play a complete game. The Gophers still haven’t put together a solid 40 minutes of basketball, which will actually be necessary if St. Joe’s plays like they did against Villanova. A solid and complete game will also indicate that Minnesota has the right mindset heading into the conference season. They can’t afford any slip ups from here on out. A five minute lapse in concentration probably won’t matter tomorrow, but it will in two weeks.

Keys for St. Joseph’s

  • Get Govens going. The senior guard is a consistent scorer who has scored in double digits in 6 of 8 games.
  • Be above average. The Hawks have been just bad enough to lose in their last several games. To be competitive, all they need is a little better rebounding, defense, or shooting.
  • Use the Villanova game as motivation. They showed they can be competitive with the nation’s best. After several close losses to mediocre opponents, it would be easy to view their most recent close loss as the norm. How they handle it could determine the outcome as the rest of the season.