This game is much more about the Gophers than it is about Tennessee Tech. There is no reason to believe that the Gophers shouldn't take care of business and win this game. The thing to be watching for is how well the Gopher execute, play defense and control the tempo of the game.
With that said here is a little of what to expect from Tennessee Tech? The Golden Eagles finished 12-18 a year ago, finished the season with an RPI of 272 and return the majority of their lineup minus last season's leading scorer. The 6-9, F/C Daniel Northern averaged 12.6 ppg and 8.8 rpg. Returning are the other four starters so this team should be a bit more experienced than a year ago, though not likely talented enough to beat the Gophers tonight.
In one exhibition game the Golden Eagles were led by Kevin Murphy and Frank Davis who scored 20 and 18 respectively. Elija Muhammed came off the bench to chip in 16, while taking the second most shots on the team. Murphy is a 6'6" sophomore forward who led the team in scoring but had some mixed results. 20 points but shot just 4/13 from the field; 10 rebounds for a double-double but also had 7 turnovers; 11/12 from the free throw line but fouled out of the game. Frank Davis is a senior guard shot very well (6/6 including 4/4 from behind the arc) on his way to an 18 point night. Muhammed is also a senior guard and appears to be the offensive spark off the bench as he took 11 shots, including 6 from three point land.
So those should be the three guys worth keeping an eye one. Nothing jumps out as far as style of play or any dominating player that we should worry is capable of taking over the game.
As I said, what I care about and am most interested in watching is how the Gophers play. I'd really like to see three things tonight...
1-Control the Tempo - this will start on the defensive end and tonight I would expect to see the defense create a lot of offense. But we need need to be in control from the tip to the buzzer.
2-Control the Glass - We were great on the offensive end last year but defensive rebounding was mediocre. I really want to see us dominate the defensive rebounding. TT isn't very big and we have quite a bit of size, even without Mbakwe and White.
3-Show me some signs of scoring - The other issue from a year ago was a lack of any consistent scoring. Nolen carried us in the Louisville win, Westbrook a few times including at Wisconsin, Joseph down the stretch, Johnson at other times. I'd like to see some offensive flow that generates offense and find a go-to guy.
Expected Starting Lineup
PG - Al Nolen
SG - Lawrence Westbrook
SF - Damian Johnson
PF - Paul Carter
C - Ralph Sampson III
Should be fun to finally watch some Gopher hoops. I'll have more season preview type stuff in the coming days but this is what you get for now.