Enjoy your time at The Barn on Saturday evening or watching at home on the Big Ten Network. For two hours, or 40 minutes of game time if you prefer, there should be plenty of stress free basketball. You can watch the game with your eyes open, hope for a completely unnecessary but fantastic 360° dunk, cringe at strange line-ups, and hope Kendall Shell knocks down a three-pointer. Saturday is the last night of fun, consequence-free basketball. On New Year’s Eve everything changes. Enjoy this while it lasts.
The Golden Gophers should beat the Lafayette Leopards by 30, and I would be surprised if it is that close. They are the worst team to set foot in Williams Arena this season, and it was probably by design. The strangest amalgamation you could imagine on the floor at once for Minnesota would comfortably beat them. Several high school teams in the area would be competitive. They are that bad. Some would hope for a more challenging opponents in the final non-conference game. They’d be wrong. After three straight seasons of unexpected departures, two weeks of practices with a bad team thrown in the middle is just what a team needs if they are going to overhaul themselves mid-season. Thankfully, for once, and I am knocking on all the wood I can find, the Gophers are whole and healthy. They can use these quiet two weeks to get even better.
On to the last little piece of business, Lafayette. I honestly don’t know how to describe their badness. Let’s start with what they aren’t the worst at. They are the 19th best free-throw shooting team in the country. Good for them. They have something to be proud of. After that….ugh. They rank 83rd in three-point shooting, 97th in overall shooting, and 143rd in two-point shooting. They rank 226th in avoiding turnovers, and in the 300s in getting to the free-throw line and offensive rebounding. All this adds up to 244th ranked offense. Somehow, Lafayette’s offense is their best attribute. The defense ranks 312th, giving up 1.075 points per possession. The national average is .993 points per possession. They get there by ranking 335th in field goal defense, not forcing turnovers, and bad defensive rebounding.
The best case scenario for the Gophers on Saturday is to win comfortably, rest everyone that needs it, and let Wally Ellenson play 15 minutes, just so he can get his feet wet. If the Gophers take care of business, and I am very confident that they will, we may all wake up on Monday morning to a top ten team. At least two teams ranked ahead of the #13 Gophers will lose, since there are two games between top ten teams. A sold out Barn, a top ten team, on New Year’s Eve? I’m in.
And forget Lafayette, BEAT THE SPARTANS!