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Golden Nugz for 2.4.09

Every bit of pressure is on the Michigan State Spartans tonight. Tom Izzo's team had the Big Ten wrapped around its finger a few weeks back, but back-to-back home losses to Northwestern and Penn State--combined with Purdue's road loss last night to Ohio State--opens the Big Ten up to anyone who wants to stake claim.

The Gophers have as good a chance as any. One month ago I would have said any talk of the Gophers contending for a Big Ten championship was crazy talk. But all of a sudden Ralph Sampson III has established himself as an interior player to be concerned about. And Minnesota's team defense was so overwhelming against Illinois, that it's certainly conceivable that this team can get hot offensively (they haven't yet) and stymie opponents on the other end.

It is possible. Tubby thinks so. From the Pioneer Press:

Smith thought an advantage would be that his newcomers, including freshman big men Ralph Sampson III and Colton Iverson, had shown maturity since being overpowered when the Gophers were outrebounded 49-27 and gave up 23 offensive rebounds in the first game against the Spartans. Minnesota outrebounded an athletic Illinois team 44-29 in a 59-36 home win Thursday.

"They dominated the game in pretty much every phase, but I think we've learned some things since then," he said. "Colton and Ralph have gotten a little more experience, and it has helped them. I think we're playing with a little more poise and a little more patience. We're playing a lot sounder defensively."

With Raymar Morgan likely out for the Spartans, the game tonight is winnable for Minnesota. But the pressure isn't on the Gophers. But for some reason, Spartans Weblog isn't concerned about Morgan being out.

Given the Gophers’ shot-blocking prowess, Raymar Morgan’s absence may hurt less than it would against other opponents.  The burden will be on the Spartan guards to take care of the ball and knock down perimeter shots.  In the first match-up, Kalin Lucas scored 24 points.  We may need a repeat performance from him.  Durrell Summers knocking down a few more 3-pointers over the smaller Gopher guards would help, too.

\True enough. Lucas devastated the Gophers in round one. But so too did MSU's interior dominance. If that is nullified tonight, it's a differeng ball game.

In my opinion, the Gophers can lose this game tonight and all will still be well. But for the Spartans? There's every reason for Travis Walton and Izzo's crew to be worried. A loss tonight and Michigan State will be in a dog fight with four or five teams the rest of the year for a regular season conference title.

  • A bright future for Tubby Smith's Gophers was on display when Rodney William and Royce White played on the prep hardwood. The Star Tribune's John Millea has more here. (By the way, Wiliams and White are two reasons I believe Smith when he says he's not interested in other jobs).
  • The way I read this Pioneer Press article, it looks to me like Tim Brewster's recruiting has tailed off, even if just slightly, from last year. I was mightily impressed with the class Brewster put together last year (and part of that had to do with the large number of scholarships he had available).
  • Not sure why I'm sticking with the local press today--it's like the NFL season is over and there's nothing else for the MSM to write about--,but here's a conversation by Pioneer Press reporters  on the evolution of Ralph Sampson III.
  • Maybe Tubby Smith is starting to look good to some people in Lexington, Kentucky.
  • (Georgia blog)  apparently longs for the days of Tubby Smith and is crossing its fingers for a helping of Bobby Knight.