Notch a big win, preferably on the road against a rival and/or conference favorite.
Have another big game against a conference favorite looming.
Have a bottom tier team you feel you should beat sandwiched in the middle.
Following a huge win like beating the Badgers in Madison it is going to be real easy for the Gophers to start looking at the schedule and assuming certain wins. This is one we all assume. I know it is on the road but c'mon, it's Northwestern. People will surely comment that Tubby is such a great coach that he won't "let" them look past Northwestern. While I admire what Tubby had done, there isn't a coach in the country that can avoid a let down game or two. It is human nature, especially for 20 year old kids who are getting pretty excited about their season. Tubby can make adjustments and push the right buttons once we get the game going but this has the potential of letting NU get some momentum early and taking a shot at beating us.
This game should scare us a little bit from a standpoint of the team looking past the Wildcats coupled with Northwestern's style of play. We will get a heavy dose of the infamous Princeton Offense. Defensively we better have our heads in the game or we will be burned by backcuts for layups and when we get sucked in towards the basket NU will bomb threes on our beloved Gophers.
This game will be all about our defense. We have been disciplined all year on the defensive end and this game will test that like no other. I love watching an offense that puts the defense in a no-win situation. The Princeton offense does that on every possession. The Gopher defense will have to stay disciplined for 40 minutes and if we lose focus for 1 moment, Northwestern will get a lay up or a wide open three.
I'll wrap this up quick, here are a few keys to the game...
1. Do NOT lose focus defensively. Obviously I've already talked a little about this. Guys like Abu-Shamala and Busch may get more minutes today because Northwestern is not terribly ahletic. Guys who are tuned in defensively will see the most minutes today.
2. Offensive Rebounds. NU is worse than we are at defensive rebounding, which means there will be great opportunity crash the glass and rack up double-digit offensive rebounds.
3. Guard their Guards. Michael Thompson is a talented guard who should match up well with Nolen. Craig Moore is averaging more than 13 pnts, 3 reb, 3 ast and 3 threes per game. Besides just defending them I think a real key will be turning them over. They average a combined three turnovers per game but I expect that number to be higher this afternoon.
I could list that slowing down Coble is a key but I am not concerned about his carrying Northwestern. He is solid and opportunistic bu I think our frontline will be able to defend him to at or below his average.
This game is very winnable but it will have to be earned. NU has been better than expected and given teams more than they could handle despite their recent four game slide.
Minnesota wins but I expect a lull where NU takes the lead for a portion of the game.
Minnesota - 61
Northwestern - 52