Unless you have been living in a cave you know this is obviously not a serious post....but just roll with it K?
Between the Big Ten Tournament and the first two rounds of the Big Dance the Gophers have had a full slate the last couple weeks as they’ve made a mad dash through the postseason, culminating with upset victories over Auburn and Louisville as they find themselves in the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1997.
There always seems to be one 12-seed that catches fire in any given year, and it appears that Minnesota is it this year. For opponents, having to face an upstart major conference program like the Gophers can’t be too appetizing, as they’ve had a full season’s worth of top tier opponents, instead of getting fat on a mid-major schedule. In other words, a sleeping giant may have been woken up.
The Gophers get a shot at perhaps college basketball’s best story of the season, the Dayton Flyers, who bested Northern Kentucky and Florida to find themselves in the Sweet Sixteen as well. This comes on the heels of the Atlantic 10 championship, which put an exclamation mark on an amazing season. The Flyers are one of the best teams in the nation.
Dayton Flyers 34-2)
Date and Time:
Friday, March 26 @ 8:10 p.m.
Madison Square Garden (New York, NY)
Tell me more about the opponent.
Here we go. Swimming with the big boys. The Gophers now face one of the best teams (and best players) in the nation for a chance to keep the Cinderella run intact. Obi Toppin is challenging for Player of the Year honors while Anthony Grant may well end up winning the Coach of the Year award. Such is life when you go undefeated in conference play and have one of the nation’s best offenses.
The Flyers are on a ridiculous 25-game winning streak. They boast four players who are averaging double figures in Toppin (20), Jalen Crutcher (15.1), Trey Landers (10.5), and Ibi Watson (10.1). Not to mention two other players who play 27 minutes a game and can knock down three pointers. This is a deep, talented team and their run through this season should be no surprise.
The Flyers are second in KenPom in offensive efficiency, and boast the nations top eFG% and top field goal percentage from inside the three-point stripe. But they’re also excellent from deep as well. They’re fairly average on defense, but more than make up for it on the other side with Toppin and Crutcher. This is a very tough team to beat.
That said, they’ve faced only two teams within the KenPom top 35 this season (Kansas and Colorado) losing both. In fact, they haven’t played a team within the top 30 since they played the Jayhawks in November. Granted, both losses came in OT, but perhaps they’ve gotten fat in a soft conference? One thing is for sure, the Gophers will be one of the toughest teams they’ve face in quite a while.
The Gophers mercifully had three full days to rest, so hopefully they’ve gotten their legs back after a ridiculous last two weeks. For as much as the nation loves Obi Toppin, let’s not forget that Minnesota has Daniel Oturu, who should be able to least cancel him out. The question then becomes just straight up depth. Isaiah Ihnen has turned into a productive player late in the season, taking some pressure off Marcus Carr and Gabe Kalscheur. Which team will show up?
The Flyers are fantastic, though, and a 1-seed for a reason. I’m taking them by 5.