THE BAD NEWS: The Gophers have played well all season when they have been under the radar. Now they have to show they can fight hard when they are the hunted. The Cyclones will be snarling when they come on the court for their first-round game. Will Dan Monson's Gophers match them in intensity?
PROBABLE LINEUP: Point guard Brent Lawson — One of the most underappreciated players in the Big Ten. Lawson is averaging 7.1 points and 3.9 rebounds per game. Lawson is also connecting on 49 percent of his shots from the field. Not spectacular but he simply does not make mistakes.
Shooting guard Aaron Robinson — Averaging 8.3 ppg, Robinson is the guy head coach Dan Monson wants on the free-throw line when the game is in the balance. He is connecting on 81.1 percent of his free throws. He is also connecting on 40.7 percent of his shots from beyond the arc.
Center Jeff Hagen — Solid numbers, but they don't begin to tell the story. Hagen is a blue-collar worker who comes with a hard hat and a lunchpail everyday. He has been a valuable member of the program for years and now the senior gets his reward with a shot in the NCAA tournament. Averaging 11.3 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.
Power forward Dan Coleman — A decent contributor who can battle on the inside and shoot from the outside. Coleman is averaging 8.3 ppg.
Guard-forward Vincent Grier — This junior college transfer has carried the Gophers on his shoulders. At 6-5 and 200 pounds, he is big enough to take it inside and he can also fire the rock from deep. He is very creative off the dribble and shows tremendous leadership for Monson.
BENCH: Rico Tucker, Spencer Tollackson and J'son Stamper all show toughness and heart off the bench. Look for Tollackson to play with toughness and do the little things — setting screens, hard fouls — that help the Gophers win games.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Minnesota is a very good team and Grier is a tremendous player. If we didn't have such a tremendous run, Dan Monson would have been the Big Ten coach of the year." — Illinois head coach Bruce Weber on how well Minnesota has played this year.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
UPCOMING GAMES: vs. Iowa State in the first round of the NCAA tournament, Charlotte, March 18.
KEYS: The Gophers and the Cyclones should play a very tight game. This could be one of the most entertaining games of the first round. The Gophers have been solid, determined and successful all year. The Cyclones are a tough, hungry team that has been surging.
ROSTER REPORT: Guard Vincent Grier