Golden Gophers vs Northwestern Wildcats Preview

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I'm not really sure how much of a preview is needed here.  We know the Wildcats well.  This will be the third meeting between the teams since mid January.  In some way, the fact that they beat us once before could be avdantageous to us.  Why?  Because we know how they beat us before and we have played better against the 1-3-1 of late.  We know exactly what they are going to try to do.

Simply put, the Wildcats have had a nice season, but we have a better coach (Bill Carmody has done a nice job this year, but he isn't Tubby Smith), better talent, and better results this year (41 RPI vs 70).  That being said, we are far from invincible.  We are quite susceptible to a first round exit.

Keys to a Gopher victory and a date with Michigan State and probably the Big Dance:

Don't let Coble get comfortable.  If he starts putting up points and drawing more defenders, that is only going to open up Craig Moore from behind the arc.  We should keep tight defensive pressure on him and not let him establish position inside.  Iverson's play will be key.

Defend the perimeter.  We have been just plain bad at defending the three of late.  If Moore gets in a groove, the Gophers will be in trouble.

Use our size and athleticism to our advantage.  For the most part, individual defenders on the Wildcats don't scare me.  They play well as a unit, but if we break them down and force them off their gameplan, we can leverage our advantages.  Part of this also depends on good decision making from our guards.

Keys to a Wildcat win and keeping the hope alive for a first NCAA bid:

Force the Gophers into turnovers.  There is no question we are prone to turning the ball over.  The Gophers get frustrated easily and often try to force shots when they should pass and vice versa.

Use their bread and butter.  The Wildcats have the guile to beat Big 10 opponents.  Cobble, Moore, and Michael Thompson amass nearly two-thirds of their total offense.  It is clear who they turn to when they need to end a scoring draught and stay close enough to come out on top at the end.

Slow the Gophers down.  Don't let Minnesota score easy baskets in transition.  We have a tough time in a half court offense.  The more we score off of Wildcats turnovers or missed shots, the less the Gophers have to try to manufacture offense.

Rencito's crystal ball:  The Wildcats stay close for most of the game, but can't quite keep up at the end.  Gophers 67  'Cats 54

 

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