They did go to San Diego State and only lose by two, lost by just eleven at UNLV, and beat a bad South Carolina team on a neutral court. So that's ok. It's not, however, enough to mitigate that they lost to Nebraska (in 2 OT) at home, beat Morgan State by just three at home, and got beat by Cal Poly 42-36 at home. If it was just the Nebraska loss that'd be one thing, but squeaking by Morgan State, losing to Cal Poly, and only scoring 36 points in a home game are all signs of a bad, bad, bad, bad team.
Looking at their team stats, they do a good job of slowing the game down (way, way, way down) and playing quality defense which is mostly predicated on defending the shot and causing turnovers using a pressure man-to-man style. Offensively they're pretty awful overall. They can't shoot the 3-pointer (thank god, although they are solid on 2-pointers), are horrid on the free-throw line, and rarely grab an offensive rebound. They play a grind it out, ugly style that Big 10 fans are unfortunately far too familiar with, and assuming the Gophers don't get bored, sloppy, or stupid and remember to play disciplined smart ball and try to get the game uptempo whenever possible the Gophers should be able to come away with a comfortable win. Should.
As far as players go, one of the Trojans' top dudes is a somewhat familiar face in Aaron Fuller, formerly of Iowa. I say somewhat familiar because even though I recognized the name and knew he used to be a Hawkeye I barely remember him. He's 6-6, 235 lbs. and there isn't much slashing or perimeternessitude to his game - he's just an undersized power forward. I'd say the Gophers would squash him but well, you know, the injuries and shit. The key will be how he and Rodney match-up. Fuller is stronger, but on a scale of 1-10 of athleticism, quickness, and jumping Fuller is a 2 and Rodney is like pi to the power of pi. I think Williams should be able to school Fuller on both ends of the floor, but that strength advantage has me picturing Fuller just overpowering him and killing the Gophers in the paint while rendering Williams irrelevant when the Gophers have the ball. I don't think so, but I'm nervous.
USC's other main scorer is 5-7 point guard Maurice Jones. He's really small, really fast, creates havoc on defense (thus the turnovers USC creates with regularity), and loves to shoot the rock. Yes, that's right folks. We're going to get to see a chucker extraordinaire. Jones has taken 102 of USC's 386 shot attempts this year despite shooting just 37%, and taken 44 of their 106 3-point attempts despite hitting just 34%. As with most chuckers he can shoot the Trojans right out of a game if he's not hitting or he can basically winning the game single-handedly if he's hot. He hit 7-7 on threes against South Carolina (but was 2-8 on 2s) in a win, hit 7 of 10 shots against Morgan State in a win, but also shot 1-11 in the loss against Cal Poly and is 1-10 on threes in the team's other two games. I have no idea which version shows up Saturday, but I am confident the Gopher guards have enough size and defensive ability to keep him in check. Expect a wreckless good time, like doing a bunch of shots and then playing Mario Kart.
Graduation and injuries have hurt this team pretty badly from last year - they lost their would be best player to injury before the season on their trip through Brazil (it was probably a blowgun incident) - and looking at their roster I'm not seeing a whole lot else that's worthwhile to point out. It's going to be a slow game with a few wild shots. As long as the Gophers don't become stupid they should handle this.
Minnesota 64, USC 48
|Yes, she will be at the Barn on Saturday|