If the season simply ended after the regular season, the Gophers would probably in the NCAA Tournament as a 10 or 11 seed, somewhere in that range. But the Big Ten Tournament still stands in our way, providing both opportunity and risk.
A win today all but secures an NCAA bid for Tubby Smith in his second year at MInnesota and gives the team a chance for an upset against Michigan State tomorrow.. A loss and the Gophers are probably looking at an NIT bid.
No pressure, kids!
Coach Smith has indicated we will see Al Nolen and Lawrence Westbrook back in the starting lineup today. I think I'm fine with that. They've been in this situation before, and it was exactly one year ago when Westbrook led a lethargic Minnesota team back to win a hotly contested first round game.
For the Gophers, they need to find good shots against Northwestern's 1-3-1 and be patient enough to get the ball into the paint against their defense. Don't be surprised if the 'Cats employ a little 2-3 zone that Michigan used to come back from double-digits last week.
Maybe more than anything, the Gophers need someone to get hot. We need a Blake Hoffarber or Paul Carter or Devoe Joseph to get hot and provide some offense.
Gametime is 11 a.m. central time. The game is televised on the Big Ten Network. This is your gamethread and I'll be here throughout. For those of you at work, I'll try to give updates as the game progresses.