Gophers Basketball Can’t Sleep on Michigan


darius morris

Glen Rice is long gone, the Fab Five are nothing but a distant memory, and recent stars Manny Harris and Deshawn Sims aren’t walking through that door.

On this roster, Wolverine fans probably wish that Tim Hardaway Jr. was a little more like his dad, Zach Novak was a little more like Steve Novak, and that Jordan Morgan was a couple years older so they had anything resembling an inside game.

Unfortunately for John Beilein and the Michigan faithful, none of those are coming true anytime soon for the 11-8 Wolverines.

What started as a promising season has turned into a conference nightmare, with the Wolverines going 1-6 since the start of the Big Ten conference season.

Minnesota on the other hand has found a way to reel their season back in.

In what proved to be a tumultuous week and a half that included losses of their most explosive scorer and their promising young post, an arrest on their best player, and three tough conference road losses, the Gophers have managed to pull things together with an upset of at-the-time #8 Purdue and a 69-59 victory over lowly Iowa.

Saying the Gophers are back on track may be a little presumptuous, but at least they’ve found their way off the wrong one.

So when looking at these two teams it may seem like a no-brainer victory for the AP #15 Gophers, perhaps in convincing fashion.

But looking closer at these squads and their history, you may want to stop short of handing Minnesota the game.

Minnesota has lost four in a row to the Wolverines and six of their last eight.  One of the Gophers losses last year was their second-to-last game of the regular season, a 28 point route in which Gophers leading scorer Blake Hoffarber was held to five points.

blake hoffarber

Michigan has only won 11 games, but 10 of them have been at home, where they have only lost three.

Those three losses?  #14 Purdue, #1 Ohio State, and #2 Kansas.  Kansas they took to overtime before losing by seven, while Ohio State edged out a four point win over Michigan with a strong second half.

If there’s ever such thing as a good loss, mark Michigan down for two of them.

The Wolverines are strong in the backcourt, with Darius Morris still hanging around the top five in the nation in assists while also leading the Wolverines in scoring with 15+ per game.

He is explosive and if there’s one man that can lock him up it should be Al Nolen, but the Gophers defensive guard depth aside from Nolen is severely lacking.

That’s where the other Wolverines explosive young scoring threat comes in, Tim Hardaway Jr.

At 12 a game Hardaway Jr. is having an impressive freshman year, and while his jumper hasn’t been everything Beilein had imagined so far, he has made up for it by being smart with the ball and showing a little athleticism.  He and Morris along with Novak might give the Gophers guards some trouble.

tim hardaway

On the other hand, the Wolverines are inexperienced and weak in the frontcourt, ranking eighth in the Big Ten in rebounding and last in blocked shots, both categories the Gophers lead the conference in.

The Wolverines best bet is to deny Ralph Sampson III and Trevor Mbakwe the ball, because once they get it in the paint, they simply have the Michigan frontline outskilled and outmuscled.

With how these teams matchup it will be an interesting contest, with both teams likely to get their share of opportunities to score because of the man opposite them.

Should Michigan play man or their 1-3-1 zone and Minnesota press or sit back, Crisler Arena and their on-top-of-the-floor student section should be ready to rock for this contest Saturday night, something Minnesota must prepare themselves for.

-Mike Gallagher is co-host of the Minneapolis based sports talk show The Backdoor Cut and Minnesota Gophers Beat Writer for The Sports Bank.

Powered by

Speak Your Mind