Gopher Hoops, Hockey Seasons At Critical Juncture

January 12, 2012

Minn Hoops, MN

The two prime winter sports at the University of Minnesota are in full swing.  Gopher hoops is circling the drain, while the hockey team has been solid, if not excellent at times. But both are now entering critical, but different junctures in their respective seasons.

So far, Goldy's antics have been about the only thing Gopher fans can smile about.

Men’s basketball seemingly pulled themselves off the mat after the gut punch that was the Mbakwe injury, beating a slew of inferior opponents before conference play began.  Big Ten season opened, and not much has gone right since.  Close losses to Illinois and Michigan on the road, and a dreadful home turnout against Iowa and Purdue have the Gophers sitting at 0-4.  Tonight they face the very real possibility of going 0-5 in conference, playing the Hoosiers in Assembly Hall.    Assuming that happens, the next stretch of 7 games becomes hyper-critical for Minnesota, if anything is to be salvaged from the season.  My criteria  to salvage the season means finding a way to get back onto at least a very volatile Tourney bubble.  And in my mind, that means getting to at least 8 wins in conference.

There are a handful of winnable games in this next stretch –  @ Penn St, Mich St, Iowa, and Nebraska, and home vs. Northwestern, Illinois, and Wisconsin.  The PSU, Iowa, Nebraska, and Northwestern games become the cliched, must win-type.  Then some real magic needs to happen with an upset over Illinois and/or Wisconsin ( I cannot see a win at the Breslin Center happening).  Going 5-2 in this part of the schedule, looks pretty unlikely at this point, but it’s what needs to happen if the last 3rd of the Big Ten schedule is to have much meaning at all.  Going 3-4 seems more reasonable, but puts the Gophers at 3 and 9 over all, and finishing with 7-8 conference wins would be a tall order, given the remaining schedule.

Men’s hockey has looked sharp for the bulk of the first half, with a few little hiccups along the way, mostly in games outside of the WCHA.  This weekend, the #4 Gophers (INCH ranking) they roll up to Grand Forks to play the hated University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux in their palatial Ralph Engelstad Arena.  The #17 ranked Sioux will be looking for revenge after getting swept down in the Twin Cities back in early November.  UND has also gone 7-1-1 since that weekend sweep and appear to be a team that has put it together now.  A split coming out of UND would be a acceptable, and grabbing 3-points a huge boon in setting the tone for a strong second half that could propel Minnesota into the playoffs with a high seed.   That’s the juncture here that Gopher hockey faces – Do they slug through the WCHA  2nd half and match their 1st half performance of  11-3, or do they slide back down into the middle of the pack?  This weekend will likely go a long way in answering that question.

Yes, Goldy skates too.

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About Gopher Bandanna Guy

Connoisseur of Steely Dan, Soundgarden, smoked fish, and Singapore Slings. D-Lions and Tigers fan since 1982. Proud Golden Gopher Alum, Class of '99. SKI U MAH!

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5 Comments on “Gopher Hoops, Hockey Seasons At Critical Juncture”

  1. dusty 12 Says:

    Hockey!!! hate Gopher hockey!!! Knock those teeth out – that ain’t no hockey mascot.

    GBG would love to read a primer at some point on the new Big Ten Hockey Conference and how it’s shaping up. Who will be participating? Iowa’s hoops band has always worn hockey jerseys — are they finally going to get a hockey team?

    We get crap on college hockey out in these parts….


    • Tony Says:

      if only there were a network of machines that could deliver that information to non-hockey hotbeds.


      • Gopher Bandanna Guy Says:

        Will do my best to bring that sometime down the road, Dusty. I’m excited for a full-blown Big Ten hockey conference. I must admit though, that I’m hardly a hockey expert. I know the game and the rules, and I enjoy it. But I couldn’t tell you anything about the intricacies of a neutral zone re-group or defensive angling. I just like watching hockey.


      • dusty 12 Says:

        I am too, but I think we’re both going to miss the North Dakota rivalry. That was a nice, fierce rivalry between our three schools. Looking forward to it. Even the fundamentals and some perspective is more than I can find out here.


      • Gopher Bandanna Guy Says:

        Definitely true, playing the Fighting Sue will be missed, but I suspect Minnesota and Wisconsin will try and get them on the non-conference schedule. Likewise, Minny will likely set up an in-state tourney with all the other D-I programs.


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