Michigan Basketball Game 27: Minnesota at Michigan - A Q & A The Daily Gopher

The Game: Minnesota Golden Gophers (19-6, 7-6 Big Ten) at Michigan Wolverines (16-10, 6-7 Big Ten).
Tipoff: 7 p.m. EST today.
TV: Big Ten Network.
Radio: WWWW-FM (102.9), WWJ-AM (950).
Latest line: Michigan is favored by 3 1/2 points.

The Enemy

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But he's soooooo cute.... Kill it. via sjmc.umn.edu

If you want a professionally done preview, go here. However, if you want to learn something about tonight's Match-Up with the Varmint Cong, stick around buddy boy.

In an interview orchestrated by the outlaw broadcast network al-JaGophera television, we sat down with Generalismo Dougie Svensen (who's real name is actually Gopher Nation of the kick-ass SBN Minnesota Blog The Daily Gopher, which you should be reading, daily), to ask him a few questions about the Gophers' 2009 basketball team and the agenda of the University of Minnesota People's Basketball Liberation Army, Doncha Know (UMPBLADK). However, the cost was steep. In order to meet with Gopher Nation, via teleconference, somewhere in the Mall of America (by the Cinnabun! [which Cinnabun? there are like 60 of them in the MoA!]), we were forced to turn over our own assessment of Michigan's team.

The Daily Gopher will have our responses up soon. Provided of course that all the Caddy Shack and Mall jokes don't anger them to the point of hunting me down with a logging axe and a big blue Ox.

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Don't sleep, he's a steely eye'd killer.

Tonight's tip off is at 6 Central, and we'll have the live blog up and running for your commenting pleasure. We'll do our best to keep it basketball focused, but the occasional dick and fart joke must be made. It's just a rule. One other rule. No unicorns. While awesome, unicorns are the exclusive domain of the WLA. If you want unicorns, go there. We'll try to keep it basketball focused, as best we can. By the way, Gopher Fans, you're invited to the party too. Join us. Mock our failing auto industry as we mock you for being Canada except without the charm.

I keed. I keed.

Now, on to the questioning!

1. The numbers say Lawrence Westbrook is Minnesota's best player. Does reality bare that out? I'm scratching my head how he's only playing 23 minutes a game if he's option 1. Who is Minnesota's best player: a) consistently; and b) on talent alone.

I am of the opinion that Westbrook is at best our third or fourth best player.  He absolutely carried us in our win at Wisconsin when he scored 29 including a game tying three in the final seconds.  But he in all honesty he is our leading scorer because he takes the most shots (60 more than the next closest guy).  He is seeing his minutes decrease because freshman Devoe Joseph is improving and Westbrook is often a turnover machine (leads the team and has few assists). 

(Devoe? - Ed.)

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Girl. I. Must warn youuuuuuuuuu......

We don't have a "best player."  If pressed I would say Al Nolen and Damian Johnson are our two best players overall.  The are leaders they are great defenders and adequate on offense.  Nolen has struggled lately but these two are currently our best players.

2. How is only one player averaging double digits? Is this a system thing? Minnesota's third in offense without a true lead scorer. Explain.

It is partly a system thing and partly an issue of having good role players but no great scorers.  Hoffarber is a great shooter, Johnson is offensively efficient, Nolen can score from his defense and usually one other guy (Westbrook, Joseph, Carter) will step up with an occasional big game. 

3. So, two years in. How's Tubby working out? Are you starting to see some of the reasons the Kentucky faithful ran him out of town or are you laughing at Kentucky for letting a great coach walk out the door? Or is the truth somewhere in between?

What a bum, Kentucky can have him back!  If he doesn't get us to the Final Four this year what a waste of two seasons we could have had under Dan Monson.  I mean who cares about a top 20 recruiting class followed by a top 10 recruiting class if you can't win 95% of your games.  (Am I allowed to have Kentucky standards yet?)

(No. - Ed.)

Seriously I have a huge man crush on Tubby.  Currently our offense has been struggling but Gopher fans need to keep perspective because we are about to get our second 20 win season in a row and are on the verge of the NCAA Tournament for only the second time in a decade.  This team's talent is in it's freshman and sophomore classes; and we have an outstanding recruiting class coming in next year.  Things look bright for this program and it is entirely because of Tubby Smith.

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Is it bad that this is what enters my mind when I hear "man crush"?

4. What's this pressure defense you speak of? What are we going to see defensively from the Varmint Cong?

Well, the last few games has seen the defesive pressure look vastly different than it did during the first two-thirds of the season. But on the season this Gopher defense has been second in the Big Ten at forcing turnovers and third in defensive effective FG%. This team really has no offensive identity that doesn't stem from their defense.  During the non-conference portion of the schedule we pressed often and with great effectiveness but during the Big Ten the press comes and goes. But whether half or full court this team plays very good defense starting with Nolen's quick hands in the backcourt and the shotblocking ability of Johnson, Sampson and Iverson in the frontcourt.

5. Biggest weakness on the team. What is it? Something had to drop you guys from the Louisville win to the cusp of the NCAA bubble. What's the stone anchor weighing you down?

Lack of true scorer and turnovers (I have to pick two things).  We do a great job of turning teams over but we also have a tendancy to give away possessions ourselves.  This team could overcome our turnovers if we had a stronger presence on the offensive end, someone who other teams feared.  But we do not and our margin for error is generally pretty slim.  (Michigan knows what that feels like - Ed.)

 

Manny thanks to the General....er... Gopher Nation for taking the time to meet with us and talk some hoops. We'll see you all tonight for the Game! Go Blue.

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