After this week's devastating loss to the Michigan State Spartans, the Minnesota Golden Gophers face an uphill battle to get into the NCAA Basketball Tournament. They probably need to win their next three games, and even that might not be enough to get the job done.
Their quest begins today against the Michigan Wolverines, a team that the Gophers beat 69-64 in Ann Arbor back on January 22. The Wolverines are 17-12 overall, and 7-9 in the Big Ten. The Gophers, on the other hand, are 17-10 overall and 6-9 in the Big Ten.
The game in Ann Arbor a month ago was the game where the Gophers lost point guard Al Nolen to a foot injury, and is what many point to as the time that the Gophers' season started to fall apart. At that time, they were ranked in the Top 15 in both polls, but have been plummeting ever since then.
Here's what our friends at The Daily Gopher have to say about today's game.
I'm sure we'll see the zone again today as Michigan has a couple high scoring guards that we'd be unlikely to defend well. As was the case before with Michigan they come down to whether or not they are hitting their threes. They don't have great shot selection but they take plenty. If they are hitting we'll be in major trouble. They attempted 35 threes last time around making 12 of them. Conversely we attempted just eight threes.
Once again we absolutely need to establish our identity. That obviously is owning the paint possession after possession. Don't quit with the plan. Even if Michigan does something special to take away Mbakwe or Sampson, we still can assert our will and pound the paint anyway. Mbakwe is greater than any frontcourt player Michigan can offer. Get him the ball.
No KenPom stats today, not because I'm lazy but because they are completely irrelevant today. If this team is going to win any more games it will have to be with some passion, desire and effort. All of which have been lacking at times over the last seven games.
A must win? YES. Can we win it? YES WE CAN. Will we? I don't know if we have the mental toughness to get it done but this afternoon would be a good time to show it.
Yes, today certainly qualifies as a "must win" game. A win today means that the Gophers can still have aspirations for March Madness. . .a loss means that they can start making plans for the NIT.
You'll be able to watch the game on the Big Ten Network, listen to it on WCCO-AM 830, or jump into the Game Thread at The Daily Gopher.