Your Golden Gophers were the 10th place team out of the Big Ten, they are set to face the Pac-12 regular season champs in the semi-finals of the NIT.
Game Time: 8:00 PM
Let's play some "good news / bad news."
Good News - Washington is 0-2 at Madison Square Garden this season
Bad News - they played Marquette to within 2 and Duke within 6 in those losses
Good News - Washington was destroyed (on their home floor) by South Dakota State
Bad News - The Huskies beat USC by 22 and 28, we managed to win by just 15
All of that is pretty meaningless but Washington has been a rather schizophrenic team this year. Are were going to see the UW team that lost to SDSU by 19 or the one who crushed Northwestern by 21? The reality is, this team is much like the Gophers in that they have recently been playing very well so one should not assume you are going to see a version of the December Huskies.
The names to look out for are Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten. Both are likely first round draft picks and are hotter than even our hot-combo of Rodney and Andre. Ross is averaging 21.7 over his last six games (26.3 in the NIT), he will likely be guarded by Austin Hollins which is a decent match-up for us. Austin is not a shut-down defender but he is probably our best perimeter defender.
Andre will likely draw Wroten who is another dynamic freshman point guard. WrWroten likes the bright lights and had his coming out party in December against Austin Rivers and Duke while playing at Madison Square Garden. This should be a fun match-up and an opportunity for Andre to make a name for himself if he stays hot. This will be the most intriguing match-up of the game.
Washington is going to have to account for Rodney Williams who has been playing out of his mind during this tournament. He'll be guarded by Gant who is bigger and experienced. Rodney will not likely be able to beat Gant with his back to the basket but he should be able to use his freakish athleticism to his advantage.
Here are my concerns
1 - Foul Trouble - Rodney cannot get himself into foul trouble against the bigger Gant. I know that Ingram has had a nice couple of games but I don't know how much we can count on him, I'd rather take my chances with Rodney.
2 - The Pace of the Game - We like to run and we are pretty athletic, but Washington is at another level when it comes to running. According to KenPom's adjusted tempo Washington ranks 30th in the country in tempo, Minnesota is 261st! They are not a great 3-point shooting team, but they can score in the paint with the dribble-drive. I expect to see the 2-3 zone fairly quick in this game.
3 - Rebounding - Washington is not a great defensive rebounding team but they crash their own misses quite well. Williams and Eliason need to box guys out and secure rebounds. This has to be a one and done possession game for the Gopher defense.
I am torn on this game. At times I fear that we are coming to the end our post-season run. Other times I look at Washington and see a very beatable team. We just need to play well, do what we do best and control the tempo of the game.