What does going 1-1 in the first two rounds of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off get you? This year, it’s a rematch with the lovable, cuddly, bespeckled Tubby Smith and the Texas Tech Red Raiders. That’s right, the long-awaited rematch with our former leader and zone defense wizard is upon us — Tubby Time has returned.
With a tournament-opening loss to the Temple Owls – a game in which the Gophers coughed up a late 7-point lead – and a second round victory to hold off the pesky Missouri State Bears, the Gophers find themselves in a position to exit the holiday tournament with a respectable 2-1 performance.
Simply avoiding going 0-3 in the tournament was a minor goal for a team seeking to establish a baseline of success and an identity. So far that identity revolves around streaky, if not effective shooting and an inability to rebound. But to go 2-1 with wins against schools from notable conferences would be an early-season confidence boost to a team that will face a season of peaks and valleys.
The path to 2-1, of course, runs through Texas Tech. Like Minnesota, the Red Raiders are expected to finish near the bottom of their conference, and rely on several freshman after an offseason of veteran attrition. Much like the Gophers, Texas Tech is in the throes of rebuilding. So who has the advantage at this point?
It’s a little early. Texas Tech snuck by High Point in their opening game, couldn’t cash in against Utah and nearly gave it up to a bad Mississippi State team. Still, it’s hard not to see some similarities in the two teams, considering that the Gophers have followed basically the same narrative so far this season. Such is life with a young team.
Most notably, the Raiders have been atrocious from the three-point line thus far, checking in at 339th in the nation with a 22 percent clip. While that leads to a lot of misses, the Gophers haven’t been particularly adept at the rebounding thing, and a key watch-out will be giving up too many second-chance points. That’s a killer.
Otherwise, if all else fails, we can always run a 1-3-1 zone. Texas Tech likely wouldn’t score a point.