Tuesday, December 23, 2008
It seems the masses are clamoring for a preview of tonights big #23 Gophers vs. unranked SE Louisiana tilt, so here you go. It will be short, I think, and I have no idea about any of these players because I'm pretty sure even if I wanted to watch a bunch of SE Louisiana games, and I don't, I couldn't.
The Lions (note: not the Ragin' Cajuns which is disappointing) come from the Southland Conference, which doesn't sound very scary. However their teams have looked fairly ok in the NCAA tournament the past couple of years, with Northwestern State knocking off Iowa in the greatest moment in Joe Sensor's history a few years ago, and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi giving Wisconsin a scare in 2007. This is really pretty irrelevant, but just know that the Gophers can't completely overlook SELU, picked second in the conference in the coaches' poll to start the season. The only two major teams they've played, Texas Tech and Arkansas, have defeated them but not by much. Neither of those teams are in the Gophers class, and this shouldn't be close.
The Lions best player, Kevyn Green, is a weird case. In a situation I've never even heard of, he only has one semester left of eligibility. So he's playing the non-conference schedule and two conference games, and then he's just done. So weird. He leads the team at 20ppg, and shoots nearly 50% from three with almost four makes per game. He ranks as one of the top 40 players in the country in effective field goal percentage, so he can't be overlooked. Obviously, slowing him down has to be a priority, and at 6-5 it will be an interesting matchup.
The Lions also boast some size to them (or at least some rebounding) in 6-9 center Patrick Sullivan and 6-6 power forward Warrell Span (not Warren Spahn). Both average about 12 points and 8 rebounds per game, and have a bunch of double doubles this year between the two of them. Neither are a three-point threat at all, and make their livings in the paint.
At the point they go with 6-2 freshman Brandon Fortenberry, a true point guard. He's not much of a scoring threat, but does well at getting the ball to the right players, averaging 5.3 assists per game. He also gives it up 3.3 times per game, so he will have to handle the Gophers' pressure to give his team any hope of staying in it (overall the team doesn't turn it over much).
All that being said, there's no reason to think the Gophers will have any problem with these guys. The only team they've played that is remotely decent is Texas Tech, and all the aforementioned players struggled against the Red Raiders, other than Fortenberry. The interesting thing tonight will be to watch the individual matchups.
Who guards Green? Is Nolen big enough to handle the 6-5 guy, and then who deals with Fortenberry, the Mississippi High School Player of the Year last season? Does DJ draw that assignment, leaving Sampson/Iverson to deal with the two bigs?
Ok, I'm just trying to find something interesting. Westbrook will be the one to shut down Green; he's shown he has no problems defending taller guards. DJ will be on Span and Iverson on Sullivan and they will shut them down, and Nolen will be all over Fortenberry and the Lions will be lucky to run a coherent offense most of the game. Expect a healthy dose of Busch and Shamala and Payton tonight, Gophers roll 88-55.