Al Nolen Out Indefinitely: Minnesota Gophers Suffer Setback

al nolen

The Minnesota Golden Gophers college basketball program announced that senior point guard Al Nolen will be out indefinitely with a broken bone in his right foot. Nolen suffered the injury Jan. 22 in the first half versus the Michigan Wolverines. Nolen also missed five games (11/29-12/15) this season during the non-conference schedule with a stress reaction in his right foot.

Nolen is scheduled to undergo surgery on Jan. 26 to insert a pin in the foot.

“We will definitely miss the leadership of our senior point guard,” said Gopher head coach Tubby Smith. “We knew that Al was playing with a lot of pain since the previous injury occurred so we are hoping that the procedure will relieve the pain and make it possible for him to return to the lineup by the end of the season. In the meantime, we know that Al will continue to be a leader from the bench.”

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Al Nolen’s Defense Desperately Needed for Gophers

Al Nolen

It is rare that a player affects a team on the defensive end of the floor as much as Al Nolen does for the Gophers.

In what seems to be an annual me-praise-Al event this time of year, in 2010 it seems more clear that his defense should be what’s applauded, rather than my claim last year around this time that he was “the key to the Gopher offense.”

I’d continue to make the claim that he is ONE OF the keys on the offensive end of the floor, especially considering how savvy he is with the ball and how little he turns the ball over.

But in the four games without him so far this season, the more important issue is how lost the Gophers look on the defensive end of the court.

The Gophers will continue to put up big offensive stats the rest of the non-conference season with or without Nolen, as Blake Hoffarber rains threes and the return of Devoe Joseph gives the Gophers a playmaker and sparkplug.

But consider these stats defensively when looking at the importance of Nolen to this team.

In the six games they were with Nolen, they gave up 67 points per game.  In the four games without him, they have given up 71.

That may not seem like a large difference, but consider this:  The Gophers first six games included four 2010 NCAA tournament teams and two of those opponents were ranked in the top 30 at the time they defeated them (#8 UNC, #27 West Virginia).

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Big Ten Looking To Repeat Against ACC In Annual Challenge

Tom Izzo Final Four

The ACC-Big Ten Challenge has not been much of a challenge at all as the Atlantic Coast Conference has won ten of the eleven years since its inception in 1999.  The only time the Big Ten conquered this match-up was last season; as the Midwest’s premiere conference won six of the eleven games including Wisconsin’s home upset of then sixth ranked Duke.

This week, the Big Ten should be the favorite.  If they are able to once again take down the ACC, in the words of Cleveland Indians manager Lou Brown in Major League, “that’s called a winning streak.”  Here is a breakdown and predictions for the 2010 ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

By: David Kay

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