The Gophers come in as underdogs against a Texas Tech team that played a top-25 ranked Utah team close and beat a respected Mississippi State team to meet the Gophers in each team's final game at the Puerto Rico Tip-off. These teams are very similar. They aren't great passing teams, they rely on a couple of guys to post a bulk of their scoring, and they want to get up and down the floor quicker than the other squad. The coaches however, have a stark contrast. Tubby Smith, most likely in his last stop of his coaching career and Richard Pitino's journey is really just beginning. Many consider Pitino to be excited to go out and recruit, while Tubby was never reallly reported to share that excitement. On the floor though, these teams aren't all that different in the way they are coached.
The regime changes have been made rather seamlessly. When Tubby Smith inherited Rick Pitino's talented Kentucky squad he won a national championship, we all know that. But, thinking more in-depth, that Kentucky team's style didn't change hardly at all. Fast-paced, full court press every so often and a decent amount of motion on offense. These changes are very advantageous and you should expect incoming coaches to do well, because they already have players that fit their system well. It's hard to judge Richard Pitino and Smith historically, because their greatest success has come with another coach's players-- for the most part. Can these coaches find real success, can they manufacture success at schools that haven't had a real winning culture in quite some time?
That's a question that can only be answered with speculation at the moment. Today is a pivotal game for both teams. There is only one player left on the Gophers from Tubby Smith's recruiting classes. Richard Pitino is starting to gain momentum on recruiting, with a highly praised class coming in next year and some highly touted transfers expected to make an impact next season-- but there is talent on the team this year. He needs to get Carlos Morris going early, because his continuing to struggle can't go on for this team to have a chance at 20 wins.
I don't have the stats in front of me, but usually when a coach resigns or is fired from a team and then plays that same team within one or two years of the position being vacated, usually the coach that was let go triumphs vengefully. As a betting man, I would bet Texas Tech. As a bias man, I would bet the Gophers.
Nate Mason, Carlos Morris, Bakary Konate and Joey King will need to stay away from cheap fouls and they will have to contribute offensively. They will have to fire up the youngsters on the team and show leadership. These games are so crucial to a team's success going forward. If it becomes a blowout for either side, you may see faith in the coach wither. I don't see that happening.
Players to watch for TTU:
Combo guard, D. Williams
Bruiser, Norense Odiase
Konate and Odiase could be the biggest swing in the game. Who can draw more fouls early?