Minnesota vs. Northwestern Tips Off Big 10 Tourney: Injuries Aplenty

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In this corner, you have the Minnesota Golden Gophers, a tean that’s been a train wreck ever since losing their starting point guard Al Nolen.

And in this corner, you have the Northwestern Wildcats, a team missing one of their starters in Jershon Cobb, a key reserve (and fill-in starter) in Mike Capocci. Not to mention their star player, John Shurna is still not even close
to 100%.

Something’s got to give in the Big Ten Tournament opener, the #8 vs. #9 game. Someone will be healthy enough to advance to take on #1 (in both the league and the nation) Ohio State.

By Paul M. Banks

The Gophers started the season off 11-1, and were 16-4 at the time their Nolenless slide began.

“It’s tough, I don’t know what to say, no one want to lose, no one expected us to lose, obviously we haven’t done the job,” Minnesota Coach Tubby Smith said last week when these same two teams met in Evanston.

“This losing streak we have, we’ve had leads, we’ve had leads in every game we’ve lost except Ohio State in the second half. It’s execution, focus and concentration.”

The Gophers started the season with top 15 preseason rankings across the board, and until their backcourt fell apart, they were living up to those expectations. Now they have a scared demeanor, not making shots, and constantly making turnovers.

They, like their opponents, need a miracle running of the table through Indianapolis to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.

The Cats also got off to a hot start (9-1), but it was all fool’s gold as they were mostly feasting on the weaker sisters within mid-major conferences. Once they hit conference play, their weaknesses were revealed and their winning record looked to be a result of a very weak non-conference schedule.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net. He’s also a regular contributor to the Tribune’s Chicago Now network, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com.

He does a weekly radio segment on Chicagoland Sports Radio.com and Cleveland.com

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank

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