Minnesota Golden Gophers had dreams of the Big Dance - the NCAA tournament. But 4 losses puts them on the bubble.

Now they face the Northwestern Wildcats in round one of the Big 10 Tournament..."> Minnesota Golden Gophers had dreams of the Big Dance - the NCAA tournament. But 4 losses puts them on the bubble.

Now they face the Northwestern Wildcats in round one of the Big 10 Tournament...">

Purple Reign Pregame Intel Report

Two weeks ago, the <font color="#990000"><b>Minnesota Golden Gophers</b></font> had dreams of the Big Dance - the NCAA tournament. But 4 losses puts them on the bubble.<br> <br> Now they face the <font color="#330033"><b>Northwestern Wildcats</b></font> in round one of the Big 10 Tournament...

Here's the Dilemma for the Golden Gophers. They were 8-4 in the Big 10 after they rolled up NU and Penn State, the end of February. Since then they've lost 4 straight, to MSU [71-61], Wisconsin [69-61], Indiana [74-70] and then that big loss to Illinois last Saturday [74-60]. Two weeks to go from a near contender to #7 in the Big 10.
And all the talk about Minnesota finally getting back into the NCAA Championship evaporated in a flash of no confidence.
How do you get your confidence back?"Dan Monson asked rhetorically. [in the MN Daily] "You go play well in your next game. You beat somebody up and get feeling good about yourself."
And Minnesota plans to make that "somebody" Northwestern.

But the Gophers just might be distracted from the first game because they would get another shot at the Illini in the 2nd game Friday, if they beat Northwestern a 3rd time. And this opens up the big question.

Will Minnesota come out to play the Wildcats or will they be looking ahead to Friday and "the rematch." The Gophers struggled offensively last Sunday. Illinois' big men did a good job containing Rick Rickert, holding him to 12 points.
We had some huge lapses where we didn't concentrate," forward Rick Rickert said [in the Pioneer Press Monday]. "We can't do anything about it now. We knew there was a lot at stake. It seemed like we had trouble getting an offensive flow going."
Did they ever - the Gophers shot 35.3 percent from the floor, their fourth-lowest shooting percentage of the season. They found little success outside, going 4-for-17 from three-point range (23.5 percent).]
Some people on the team are probably losing focus and starting to lose trust in each other," center Jerry Holman said [in the Star Tribune]. "We need to stay together like coach says and not be the weakest link and keep on believing we can win this Big Ten [tournament]."
Listen to the team leaders and you get a sense that things aren't all 100% up in Gopherland.
I feel like we have a long ways to go," center Jerry Holman said.[Pioneer Press] "We break down too easily. We don't know how to stay focused and stick to the game plan. Without the focus we need, we're going to have a long tournament.
And its something the team and the coaches know they have to talk about and address.
Right now our team is talking about it, but I feel we're not being about it. We're only about it 25 to 35 minutes, and after that we have a breakdown as a team." [Holman-Pioneer Press]
Now if they can just concentrate on Northwestern and no the NCAA Selection committee.
Head Coach Dan Monson said. "I know we can help ourselves in the Big Ten tournament. If we go win that, we don't have to worry about the committee." [Star Tribune]
The Last Time
The Gophers easily beat Northwestern 73-61, despite a late second half slump. Jitim Young scored 18, Jason Burke 11 and Aaron Jennings hit for 8 [As did Davor Duvancic], but Rickert had his 4th career double-double [27 pts, 13 rebounds] and the guards Maurice Hargrow and Kevin Burleson combined for 28. Minny was up 35-15 at the half.
The Big Guns
NU Coach Bill Carmody named them all in the teleconference: Forwards Rick Rickert, Michael Bauer and center Jerry Holman.

6-11 Sophomore Forward Rick Rickert [#1] averaging 16.8 points in the Big 10. Add his team leading 6.3 rebounds a game and he becomes the top dog on the court.

The other force off the boards is #41 - 6-8 Junior Forward Michael Bauer who is averaging 5.5  rebounds in this Big 10 season. #40 - 6-10 Senior Center Jerry Holman is the third leading board man averaging 4.8 in league play.

Bauer is also the man from the Arc - he's 39-102 [.382] to lead Minnesota in 3 pointers.
The Starters
Forwards: #41 Michael Bauer [6-8 Jr, 11.7 ppg/48 rpg
#1 or 4 Rick Rickert [6-11 So, 15.8/6.3]

#40 Jerry Holman [6-10 Sr, 10.1/5.4]

#12 Kevin Burleson [6-3 Sr, 7.0/3.2]
#11 Maurice Hargrow [6-4 So, 13.1/4.9]
The Gopher's starters average 57.7 points a game. The team averages 70.9.

The Rest of the Team
Leading scorer off the Bench right now is ex-NU Guard Ben Johnson [#22 6-3 Jr - 5.7 ppg]. Except for a bout with mononucleosis, he's played in most of the Gopher's Big 10 Games, averaging over 17 minutes.

You'll also see #42 6-11 Soph Center Jeff Hagen [4.5 ppg/3.1 rpg] in for Holman about 12 minutes a game.

6-6 Junior Guard Steve Esselink [#31 - 4.4 ppg] and 6-7 Freshman Forward Stanley Gains [ #21- ppg] also see minutes off the bench for the Gophers.
Challenges for the Cats
  • Once again try to shut down Rickert, Bauer and Holman
  • While you're at it shut down Burleson and Hargrow too
  • Maybe TJ needs to make more of those big rainbow 3 pointers.
  • coming out like we did against Iowa and OSU wouldn't hurt either
There is National TV

ESPN, with Dave Baqrnett and Tim McCormick

Of course there's WGN 720AM and WGNRadio.com - Dave Eanet [Mr Wildcat] and David Kaplan will have the call.

Game time is 1:30 PM Central.

Go Cats - Beat 'em All!
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