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Back on the road, the Gophers head to Penn State

Heartbasketball_mediumTomorrow (or today depending on when you read this) is Valentine's Day (if you didn't already realize this, you might want to skip the beginning of the game and head out to get your girl some flowers or something).  This preview is an ode to Gopher Basketball.

  • I love challenging Big Ten road games in February that mean something.  Although we are a likely NCAA tournament team, we do not have a tourney bid locked up.  Over the last 10 years how many meaningful games have we had in mid-February?  This trip to Penn State isn't an absolute must win but it is important to get a seed locked up and improve on said seed.
  • I love Tubby Smith.  The U of Minn is a Big Ten job and a good job but it isn't the pinnacle of the coaching profession.  When you really think about it we are unbelievably lucky to have someone of his stature and ability heading our favorite basketball program.  But in just under two years we now have a program with young talent and nothing but high hopes for the future.
  • I love the challenge of defending a team like Penn State.  Jamelle Cornley, Stanley Pringle and Taylor Battle are three very good Big Ten basketball players.  They combine for an average of 43.9 points per game and scored a combined 36 points in their trip to the Barn, mostly due to Battle's 19. 
  • I love Al Nolen and Damien Johnson.  These guys are the heart and soul of this year's Gopher squad.  They way they defend sets the tone for the entire team and has led them to a 19-5 record.  Years down the road we won't remember these guys as all time greats or tremendous scorers.  But these guys are establshing what Gopher Basketball will be about over the next few years.
  • I love the Tubby Towers.  Ralph Sampson and Colten Iverson are going to be a lot of fun to watch as they grow and develop over the next few years.  There are not very many programs around the country that have two legit big men.  Both of these guys are capable and talented on both ends of the floor.  I'm still not sure how high their ceiling is, at the very least they'll be good I'm not sure if they can be great or not.  They'll be very good and as upperclassmen they'll be a couple of the best in the Big Ten.
  • I love the freshmen as a group.  I can't ignor Joseph after I praise Sampson and Iverson.  He is something special and will be very good.
  • I love that I love Gopher basketball again. Even in the lean years I watched as much as I could but it was more routine and less passion.  The passion is back.

Let's get this win in Penn State.  The Nittany Lions are struggling and are ripe for a home loss.  But they also were dominated by the GIophers in January so they'll be ready for this game.  I doubt we'll shoot 9 for 9 from behind the three point line and nearly 63% from the overall field.  We'll have to find a different way to beat them this time around but we can get it done.