Paging Jim Shikenjanski garnered a nice preview from The Clone Chronicles regarding tonight's Gopher / Cyclone border battle.
Projected Starting Lineups
PG - Westbrook
SG/F - Payton
PF - Coleman
C - Tollackson
key sub - Nolen(PG)
key sub - Williams (C)
key sub - Johnson (SF)
key sub - Abu-Shamala (SG)
PG - Peterson - 6'1"
SG - Garrett - 6'4"
SF - Clark - 6'6"
PF - Brackins - 6'10"
C - Hubalek- 6'11"
key sub - Haluska (G) - 6'3"
key sub - Johnson (F) - 6'7"
key sub - Boozer (G) - 6'3"
Analysis - I hesitate to go into full analysis mode because I am usually wrong (see my Indiana football preview). But here goes anyway...
These teams have a few glaring similarities.
- Both are teams expected to struggle in their respective major conferences.
- Both are coming off disappointing seasons
- Both have a relatively new coaching staff
- Both are VERY thin on depth!
Both teams are light on depth but Minnesota has far more experience than ISU. Of the Cyclone's top 9 minute eaters 6 are freshmen, 1 is a sophomore and 2 are seniors. Their freshman class was a relatively talented recruiting class but it isn't full of McDonald's All-Americans and ultimately it isn't talented enough to overcome the gophers experience and talent.
PG - Iowa State (slightly) - Westbrook could go off, but the freshman Peterson is averaging 11 ppg. If Minnesota can apply ball pressure like they seem to be emphasizing this year this one could turn to MN's favor pretty quick.
SG - Minnesota - McKenzie over the freshman Garrett and this one isn't close imo. In all 3 of ISU's games the opponents SG has been the primary (or close) scorer for them. I expect McKenzie to have a monster night, assuming he's healthy.
SF - Iowa State - this is more of an indictment on Payton than it is a vote for Clark. Clark is a nice player and could be a spark for the Cyclones. If Johnson can be the spark he was for MN against Army then this could swing in the gophers favor.
PF - push - KEY MATCHUP - the 6'10" Brackins is the Cyclone's leading scorer, Coleman is a talented senior who the gophers need to step up on defense and rebounding. If Coleman wins this battle then I think Minnesota wins going away. If he gets into foul trouble or Brackins has his way with him then it will go down to the wire.
C - Minnesota - Tollackson had a big game last year with 24 pts and 13 reb. Hubalek didn't play and I expect he'll mitigate Spencer's numbers this year but my money is still on Tollackson to win this battle.
Bench - Minnesota - both are thin but Nolen, Williams and the recently hot Johnson instill more confidence than Haluska, Duluth native Corey Johnson and Boozer. The ISU trio is young and erratic. Were it the older Haluska and Boozer this would be a different story, but it clearly is not. The Minnesota bench is more stable and Williams provides some big man depth that the Cyclones just don't have.
Rebounding - when ISU has won they were +14 in the rebounding department both times. They seem to have trouble scoring but limiting their opponent's possessions keeps gives them a chance to outscore. The gophers had 17 offensive rebounds against Army, I don't expect that to repeat but if they can attack the glass with that kind of tenacity they should get more looks on offense. And Minnesota needs to limit ISU's possessions, don't give a bad offense enough chances to score cause eventually they will.
Foul Trouble - unfortunately this is what I think the game will come down to. Neither team has much depth. ISU essentially plays 6 guys with a couple more who get 6 or 7 min per game. Minnesota has 8 players they can count on. If any big men get in foul trouble that is an opportunity for the other team to dominate the paint.
Guard Play - ISU has let opposing guards get loose on offense a little bit. Daniel Ruffin of Bradly put up 20 and Centenary's two starting guards combined for 34. I expect that McKenzie could do some real damage early then I'd LOVE to see some open shots for Abu-Shamala and Hoffarber.
Pressure - I think that the gophers are really going to do their best to put pressure on the cyclones and speed their guards up a little bit. There is a good chance that this will lead to inexperienced turnovers leading to easy gopher baskets. Creating turnovers will be a key to just about every gopher game this year and this one is no exception.
I know I'm a homer (always have been, always will be), but the more I look at it the more I see a gopher victory. The gophers are more experienced, deeper and should be able to exploit the cyclone's weaknesses. I'll be more specific.
Minn - 72
ISU - 59
- McKenzie scores 23
- ISU has 18 turnovers
- Minn outrebounds ISU by 11
- Johnson has another solid game with 8 pts, 7 reb and 2 blocks