There were several upsets yesterday, can the Gophers add to the list of double-digit seeds winning? It is pretty interesting when you look all over the internet there is a distinct split between who picks the Gophers to win and who is suggesting Xavier will win.
Virtually every prediction by a human (columnist, blogger, President, etc) is picking Xavier to win. While basically every computer model or statistical prediction has the Gophers winning or at least ranked higher than the Muskateers. Kind of an interesting difference. I guess Xavier passes the "eye test", whatever that means.
I'm not going to spent too much time getting into his game in depth. We know that Minnesota is playing better over the last couple weeks. But we are still not exactly consistent, nobody knows which Gopher team will show up. I'm peacefully confident as I sit here thinking about the game. I know that Xavier is very good and they are used to the NCAA Tournament. I know they are balanced and talented. I know they shoot the three well and they rebound well. And I know we typically struggle struggle defending the three and rebounding. But I still feel OK about this game.
Keys to the Game
- And I used #1 for a reason. This is the big one. Get Blake Hoffarber going. When he scores 11 points or more we are undefeated this year, 14-0 by my count (20-1 if you go back to last year). That stat is hard to ignore and it's not a coincidence. When he is shooting the ball well defenses have to focus on him. And when they do then things are a little bit easier for Lawrence Westbrook, Devoe Joseph and Ralph Sampson. Hoffarber hasn't had a good game in several games so hopefully Xavier is spending more time gameplanning for the rest of our backcourt and The Hoff will get several good looks. I also know the Muskateers play good team defense and nothing will come easy. But the one thing that is very clear to me is that Hoffarber needs some open looks and he needs to hit them.
- Defend Jordan Crawford! Duh, right? Slow down the guy who scores 19 points per game, BRILLIANT! But so very true. Crawford may get quite a few points but he needs to really earn them. Make him work for everything.
Establish the Paint. Sampson and Colten Iverson need to be physical and dominate the paint. Xavier's Jason Love is a big guy. At 6-9, 265 lbs expect Love to really by physical with our big men. I'm not as concerned about our centers scoring, but we need to rebound and we need to defend. Don't let Love control the boards or have his way offensively in the lane. He is a load and we need to be prepared for him.
Defend the Three. Xavier shoots the three well, we often go in stretches where we choose to not defend shooters. If we don't get out and get a hand in the face of every shooter, we will get run out of the gym. This is non-negotiable.
So if I list enough keys to the game I'm sure at least a couple of them will be right. I'm excited for the game. According to FanMatch, which used 23 psychological and emotional factors to determine the best games to watch, we are the game to watch tomorrow.
I'm not sure if this will work in the Mpls market but her is the link to watch the game through CBS MMOD.