Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Game #3 Preview: Gophers vs. Tennessee State

I fully admit I don't know much about Tennessee State, particularly at the individual player level because I'm pretty sure the only time I ever saw them play was in the OVC Championship last year against Murray State and I was paying more attention to Murray State.  That being said, however, the Tigers, with an RPI last year of 112, are likely the second best non-conference team the Gophers will face on their home floor this year (behind South Dakota State) so they're probably worth a look.

Last season the Tigers went 20-11 and 11-5 in the conference and scared the crap out of Murray State in the Ohio Valley Championship game before falling 54-52 and getting an invite to the CIT (where they lost to Mercer).  They also scored regular season wins over Murray and South Carolina.  In short, they were a so-so, not terrible team and they will be returning their four top scorers from that squad this season.

Their top player is 6-9 forward Robert Covington who is averaging 16 pts and 8 rebs in their two games this year after going for 18 & 8 last season.  He's a senior this year and has averaged double-figures in scoring in all four years of his career.  He's a bit of a do everything type, and he led Tennessee State in scoring, rebounding, steals, and blocks last season while hitting 45% from three.  If the Tigers are going to make this a competitive game, this is the guy who is going to have to go off.

Also worth keeping an eye on are PF Kellen Thornton (shorter than Covington but significantly wider and who stays on the blocks mostly) who already has a 20 point game (vs. BYU), PG Patrick Miller, who has 9 and 10 assists in their two games this year and is a horrendous shooter (or was the last two years), and SG Jordan Cyphers who has a sweet name and is pretty good outside shooter.  It's a very experienced team overall (Miller is a JR. and those other three are all seniors) and they looked to be testing themselves earlier, opening with three games against possible NCAA Teams (BYU, South Dakota State, and the Gophers).  They whiffed on the chance to get a good win in the first two games, so this will be their last chance until they get killed by Missouri in December.

In summation, although this sounds like a decent team on paper the reality is they aren't very good and are no where near the Gophers' class.  BYU beat them by 15 and South Dakota State by 7 so they can stay competitive, but watching the Gopher defense and rebounding so far this year tells me Tennessee State is going to have to shoot really well and cause a ton of turnovers to have any prayer.  Those are two things they were really, really bad at last year.

Minnesota 78, Tennessee State 54

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