HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE!
Sorry, Valentine's Day always brings out extra HATE. As you may have heard, tonight the Gophers play our beady eyed rivals from the East. To remind us who they are and why we hate them I turned to Phil Mitten (@hoopsmarinara) from fellow Mothership blog Bucky's 5th Quarter. Also, my responses to his questions are now up at B5Q.
The Daily Gopher: Since the Gophers and Badgers met over 2 weeks ago in Madison, the Badgers have solidified their move to the upper third of the B1G standings. Are the Badgers doing better than you would have anticipated over the last four games?
Phil Mitten: I don't know that I'd say better, but they've turned a 5-2 record into 8-3 since then with two road games, so certainly Wisconsin is taking care of business. The Badgers have still had their rough shooting nights (including the zero FT attempts at Ohio State) and needed two overtimes to beat Iowa. The one glaring pleasantry is the reemergence of Ben Brust as a scorer for this team.
TDG: Given the opposite direction the teams are heading, who do you think needs this game more? The Badgers, to sustain their hopes of at least a share of the B1G title? Or the Gophers, who need to stop the bleeding and get back on track to avoid another February swoon?
PM: The game is huge for both teams. In terms of what would be more devastating, missing the tournament would be a disaster for Tubby Smith, so I'll pick the Gophers here. I know they can get to 20 wins, but beating Wisconsin would almost assure them of a .500 record in conference and get them in the tournament for sure. On Wisconsin's end, you're right, they have to win to stay in the Big Ten title hunt. But their postseason fate is no longer in doubt.
TDG: The last game between the teams wasn't what you'd call pretty, even by UW game standards. Has Wisconsin done much to improve their shooting woes in the last four games? And is Bo Ryan still on meltdown watch every time Ryan Evans heads to the line?
PM: The Badgers shot well from deep against Michigan (43% overall), but have still been hit or miss. They clutched up as a team from the charity stripe to outlast Iowa, thanks to Evans, who hit 5-of-7 freebies in that one. But besides that game, Evans is still a free throw nightmare, hitting only 6-of-16 against Illinois and Michigan recently. Bo Ryan left him in the game Saturday much to the chagrin of the entire viewing public. The Wolverines promptly fouled him, watched him brick the front end of a 1-and-1 and got one final attempt to tie the game in OT. Prepare accordingly, Tubby.
TDG: Since this is the heavy duty WINTER HATE WEEK between UW and UM thanks to hockey also playing I have a random HATE related question. Which B1G basketball coach do you hate the most and why? Aw heck, here's a bonus HATE question: The Madison game was mostly "Tubby sucks male genetalia" related chants from the Grateful Red and we all know that "EFF BO RYAN" will be front and center this week (not that the Barnyard is wrong, just profane and completely lacking in creativity). What is it about playing each other that destroys the creative credibility of our respective student sections?
PM: Alcohol. But more seriously, one theory would be that due to common borders, both sides have met enough dumb fans from the other side to begin assuming that it is impossible to reason with them. Thus, everybody just resorts to base name-calling.
TDG: I challenge you to say something nice about the state of Minnesota. GO!
PM: I've been to only one NHL game in my life and it was at the Xcel Center years ago. Fantastic venue. Gigantic fight in the second period (loved it) and a last-second, game-winning goal by the Wild. Game over, I win.
TDG: What are your keys to the game? Do you still fear the Gophers' length?
PM: Yes, I still fear the length, unless your guys have shrunk recently, in which case I retract.
The keys for Wisconsin, in no particular order: an efficient Ryan Evans, shooting a reasonable amount of 3-pointers, making free throws, and a fast offensive start for either Jared Berggren or Ben Brust. Brust is feeling it lately, but a good start from either of UW's best scoring options will allow the Badgers to play more comfortably at their own pace.
TDG: Predictions for tonight?
PM: I really don't know what to expect because last time out it was Minnesota winning the turnover battle and Wisconsin beating the Gophers on the boards. Down is up, up is down. Just going with the hotter hand, I'd say Wisconsin squeaks it out, but at some point these overtime games will catch up to Bucky. Like I said, UW needs a fast start. If they get it, they'll win.
Thanks to Phil for taking the time and being a good sport. And as always, be sure to stop back tonight for a HATE filled OPEN THREAD.