Monday, November 26, 2007
Big game coming up tomorrow between the Gophers and Florida State in the Big 10/ACC Challenge, and it should be a good one. While the Gophers have started out 3-0, including a decent win @ Iowa State, FSU so far is a complete and total mystery. When you lose a player like Al Thornton, it can be tough to recover, but he was their only loss and they haven't been bad, they've just been confusing.
FSU lost to both Cleveland State and South Florida in a tournament, and it looked like this would be a lost season for the Seminoles, and they'd be a terrible team. Just when everything looked down, they went into Gainesville and knocked off the Florida Gators 65-51, which is an extremely impressive victory.
It all basically means that FSU can't afford to drop any more winnable games. The win at Florida is a signature win, and it will look good on an NCAA tournament resume, but the two bad losses are going to be tough to overcome if FSU ends up a bubble team. A win against another likely bubble team in the Gophers is almost mandatory, unless they decide to go on a huge run in the ACC - unlikely. After Minnesota, the Seminoles have only one other game against a NCAA tournament possibility before the ACC season starts - At Butler, a game they likely won't win.
FSU is a perimeter based team, which will help the Gophers. Their top three scorers this season are all 6-3 or smaller, in guards Isaiah Swann (16.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.9 apg), Toney Douglas (12.4 ppg, 2.9 apg), and Jason Rich (10.6 ppg). They do have a quality center in Uche Echefu (10.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg), but he doesn't have much help. Right now sophomore Ryan Reid is getting most of the minutes, but that's because two highly touted freshman recruits aren't as ready to play as hoped in Solomon Alabi (5 minutes per game) and Julian Vaughn (16 mpg).
There is some good news and some bad news in this matchup:
1. Dan Coleman won't have to play defense. Well, obviously he'll have to play a little, but with only one threat to score in the post, Echefu, being a bigger guy, he'll draw Tollackson and Williams, leaving Coleman the easier matchup on either Reid or Vaughn. This is very good news, since Coleman still can't play defense. Coleman may end up with his best offensive game of the season, since he won't have to bang around on the other end.
2. Who is going to handle those three guards? The Gophers have plenty of guards, but the only one I completely trust defensively is McKenzie. I have high hopes for Westbrook and Nolen, but I don't know if they're ready for this caliber of foe. One thing is for sure, none of Shamala, Hoffarber, or Payton are going to be able to handle any one of those guards. Hopefully Tubby will come up with the right scheme to handle FSU's offense. I'm thinking a mix of 3-2 and man-to-man when the matchups are right.
[EDIT: I have been informed by some Florida State people that Echefu has moved over to PF, with Reid and Vaughn playing center. I'm not sure how much this matters. Tollackson has to be on Echefu, and they have to hope Coleman can handle whoever the other big is. I'm nervous about an Echefu/Vaughn pairing, because Echefu can score, and Vaughn is 6-10, 245. I'm not sure who you put Coleman on. I guess you'd almost have to put him on Echefu when Vaughn is in the game, and hope he figures out a way to stop him. Yikes. I don't like this one bit.]
Basically the keys to this game break down into being able to handle the crowd, being able to handle a more athletic team, and being able to handle defensive pressure. I don't like the fact that the Gophers turned it over 24 times against Central Michigan, and are now facing a much better, much more athletic team on the road. I like what they are doing this year, but I don't see them being able to take this one, even with the magical Tubby Smith. Florida State 77, Minnesota 70 - as the ACC takes another one. Here's how I see the challenge breaking down this year:
Wake over Iowa
Virginia over Northwestern
Indiana over G-Tech
Duke over Wisconsin
FSU over Minnesota
Clemson over Purdue
Mich St over NC State
Illinois over Maryland
BC over Michigan
Ohio St over UNC
V-Tech over Penn State
For a 7-4 ACC victory. Also congratulations to the Big Ten for being 0-6 all-time in the Old Spice Classic (Minn 0-3 last year, Penn St 0-3 this year). The good news is that they're sending Michigan State next year, so unless something bizarre happens, the B10 should finally pick up a win.
Finally, two quick football notes before I'm done:
1. It was an excellent win yesterday for the Vikings. Going into the Meadowlands and destroying the Giants, but let's all calm down. The Vikings aren't making the playoffs. Relax. And did you see Peyton Manning was at the game? Do you think he's just laughing the whole time watching Eli? He probably calls him between possessions, "Eli? You suck dude. Do you just want me to come down and there and do it for you? You're embarrassing the family." And then he films another commercial.
2. Hey, guy wearing your high school letter jacket that points out that you graduated three years ago but are still wearing your jacket anyway: When you are at a bar where you want to watch the Vikings game, and you see three guys sitting at a table for four and there's an open chair - it is NOT an invitation to sit down. Especially when you are super fan, and really we're just there to casually watch and eat free tacos and drink beer, not to get far, far too into the game. Remember when the Vikings scored that defensive touchdown, and you put up your stubby little hand for a high five? Those four seconds of hesitation, before I reluctantly and with no enthusiasm reached out and gently touched your greasy hand, were a message. Stop being you. There's a reason we went somewhere else for the second half.
Wake Forest -3 @ Iowa
Washington -22.5 vs. Long Beach
Appalachian State +5 vs. Davidson
Arizona St -11 vs. Cal Poly