As I type this the Big Ten is leading the ACC/Big Ten Challenge thanks to Wisconsin's win last night over Virginia Tech. While pretty much everybody is predicting the ACC will move to 10-0 all time in this event, let's see what the Gopher's chances are of at least giving the Big Ten a second win this year.
The Virginia Cavaliers are making the trip to the Barn. Doing a preview like this is a little difficult when you haven't seen the Cavalier play. So I'll start with the facts and end with the commentary.
|Off Reb %
The numbers, especially for Minnesota, are a little skewed because the opponents have been pretty weak. Virginia has played and lost to Syracuse which gives them a stronger strength of schedule but they also lost to Liberty which has to mean something.
By the numbers Minnesota shoots much better, scores more per possession and allows fewer points per possession, all against non-BCS and likely non-NCAA Tournament level teams.
Virginia turns it over less and rebounds better but again these numbers will be a little misleading based on their schedule. The rebounding numbers are a little off because of the Liberty game. The Flames tallest starter is a 6-5 freshman, this five guard lineup led to UVA outrebounding Liberty by 15. Against teams with decent size in the middle rebounding was essentiall even. The guy to look out for on the boards is 6-8, forward Mike Scott who has three games of double digit rebounding.
One number not included in the table above (maybe I should) is defensive eFG%, this is a key stat for tonight's game as UVA ranks 286th in the country in Def eFG% giving up a percentage of 53.1 per game. If you recall, eFG% is your typical FG% calculation with a little bonus added for making threes. This has been documented that UVA has had trouble defending the three and this stat adds to that fact. This will be a huge key for tonight (Blake Hoffarber anyone?).
Key Players for UVA
|#15 - Sylven Landesberg
| true freshman scoring nearly 21 per game
|#13 - Sammy Zeglinski
| redshirt freshman
|#4 - Calvin Baker
| most recent two games have been his best two games
|#32 - Mike Scott
|has rebounding nights of 10, 17 and 18 on the books this year
|#24 - Mamadi Diane
|Led team in 3pnt FGs last year but is 0-14 in 2008-09.
|#23 - Jeff Jones
|starter last year
|#12 - Jamil Tucker
|offensive threat off the bench
|#5 - Assane Sene
|freshman big man started Syracuse game, played only 7min
|#21 - Tunji Soroye
|playing time has decreased with each game
Their biggest contributors are on the perimeter yet they tend to not play great perimeter defense and tend to do well on the boards. On paper their forwards do not scare me offensively (I say on paper, because I have not actually seen them play). One would think that holding Landesberg and Zeglinski in check would make scoring difficult for the Cavs. Looking at their schedule Landesberg is averaging 23.6 in their three wins and 16.5 in their two losses. So I guess that makes him key #1 for the Gophers.
Keys to the Game
Minimize Landesberg. Through his long career as a Cavelier his team is undefeated when he reaches 20 points and 0-2 when he doesn't. True, it is only through five games but the McDonald's All-American is a dynamic scorer and a 6-6 guard is not a great matchup for the Gophers. Nolen and Westbrook generously top out a 6-1. Abu-Shamala matches up in size but God help us if he is guarding Landesberg on the perimeter. It will be very interesting to see how we match up and handle this kid. His minutes have been down but I wonder if Bostick will get a chance to use his 6-5 frame to guard Landesberg when he comes off the bench.
Rebounding, especially that Mike Scott kid. I'm declaring Mike Scott as the UVA version of Damian Johnson. He scores some, rebounds a lot and does things necessary for teams to win. 17 and 18 rebound nights are impressive, but I'm counting on Damian to neutralize Scott. Keep him off the boards. Whether it is DJ or one of our freshmen bigs, keep
him off the glass.
- Inside THEN Outside. I want to see a big night from Hoffarber and anyone else who wants to score from the perimeter. But first I'd really like to see is a concerted effort to pound the ball inside to start the game. Let Johnson, Iverson and Sampson work to get things going on the inside then once they are sucked in a little let the Hoff get it going from the outside. I'm predicting a big game from the sophomore instant offense.
This game is entirely winable for the Gophers. Virginia is probably more athletic and has the most dynamic scorer on the floor, but I also believe Minnesota is the better team defensively and is playing on their home floor. I'm counting on a big night for Nolen defensively, Hoffarber offensively, Johnson on the boards and another impressive performance from one of the freshmen big men.
It has been discussed here a number of times but our schedule is incredibly weak. This is the team's only realistic chance to get any credibility outside of the Big Ten schedule. A must win, it is not; but it would do a lot for our tournament resume by getting this in the W column.