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Northwestern vs. Minnesota Preview

Friday night, I went to sleep. I had used my computer at about eight. Woke up Saturday morning, my computer charger was gone. Nowhere to be found in my room. This is a problem, because my computer is past its prime by several years and needs to be literally hooked into the wall to function. (If it comes unplugged for even a second, it turns off.)

I realized that unless I drove out to Skokie to the Apple store in hopes they sell four-year-old chargers, the site was doomed: I'd have to stop posting, and Loretta would slowly turn the site into a half-Northwestern, half-compulsive gambling forum.

But luckily, when I came home from work last night, someone had lovingly draped my charger on my door handle.

Dear computer charger stealer who almost doomed Sippin' on Purple: the world owes you an apology. Well ,actually, first we need to yell at you for stealing my charger in the first place. Then we'll apologize.

On to the prev-on-on to the preview on to the prev-on-on to the recap FREEZE

Are they good?: The fact that Minnesota is the default sixth best team in the conference is pretty scary, they've had an incredible season. If you exclude the weird blemish that was a loss to Virginia in the ACC/Big Ten challenge, they're pretty damn good: losses to Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Michigan State are nothing to be expected, while wins over Purdue, North Carolina, and West Virginia are, well, impressive. There have been close calls (i.e. less than ten-point wins) at home against Cornell, Iowa, and Michigan, but, wins are wins and Minnesota has been getting them against everybody they should, except Virginia. (Side note: Virginia's kenpom ranking is lower than Wofford and South Dakota State. Seems drastic to me. I think we should blame that loss on Ralph Sampson III intentionally throwing the game against his dad's or possibly granddad's old school.)

Who they got?: Trevor Mbakwe has been the star around in his first year playing for the Gophers, averaging a double-double - yeah, he's in college and he's averaging 13.2 and 10.3. He's dropped 10 in five of six Big Ten games thus far, and hasn't had below eight rebounds in any game. Kenpom stats show him as the 17th best defensive rebounder in the country and 13th best at getting to the line, averaging 88 FT attempts per 100 field goals. he's also a force on as a defender blocking shots. Blake Hoffarber is this team's best offensive player. You may remember his zone-murdering 20-point performance against NU last year, but the keys are thus: he shoots 40 percent form downtown with ease and, although he's not a point, swings the ball very well when opponents try to collapse and prevent the open look, meaning he's the team's leader in assists as well as ARate%.

How does the injury to Al Nolen hurt them?: I bet some people are trying to naysay the loss of Nolen because he's only the team's fourth leading scorer and second-leading assist man, but already without "We Are Not Men, We Are" Devoe Joseph (Alternately: "Bell Biv"), the team will be seriously lacking guard presence. Nolen missed some time earlier in the year, and that included the aforementioned loss to Virginia.

What do they do well?: Thanks to Mbakwe, Sampson, and Colton Iverson, this is one of the best teams in the nation at defending inside the arc: the Gophers have the fourth highest block percentage - 17.3 percent of opposing shots - and 12th lowest opposing 2p% - 41.6 percent. Because those guys are still tall, they're good at the same things offensively: not many blocks against this team, they shoot 52.3 percent inside the arc, and are ninth in the country rebounding 39.7 percent of their own misses.

Do you have any jokes that you are still mad that they got edited out of the Daily Northwestern's 2008-09 Big Ten preview paragraph about Minnesota?: Funny you should ask. "Minnesota will look to freshmen big men Ralph Sampson III (related to NBA first overall pick Ralph) and Colton Iverson (definitively not related to NBA first overall pick Allen) for an inside presence." Comic gold. Because Colton Iverson is pasty. I hold grudges, editors. I hold grudges.

What don't they do well?: Minnesota plays a 2-3 zone and has formidable interior d. But that allows other teams to make it rain on them from deep, shooting 36 percent from downtown, which you'll notice is nearly as high as their defense against two-point field goals. Opposing teams score 38.3 percent of points from beyond the arc, the second highest percentage in the nation.

Good names?: Sorry I left this out of other previews, Wquinton Smith, but, hard to look past Maverick Ahanmisi. Actual birth name: MAVERICK. HIIIIGHWAYYY TO THE DANGER ZONE . Spoiler alert: If you don't cry when Goose dies every time, you aren't a true bro. Maverick is also a star player on Minnesota's two-on-two shirtless beach volleyball team.

How can NU win?: Well, let's be real: Luka Mirkovic is screwed. His attempts to score will be futile. He won't have a chance against Sampson, Mbakwe, or Iverson looking to post him up. Him and Curletti will each pick up four-plus fouls. Playing the 1-3-1 is dangerous because it will allow Blake Griffin Hoffarber to go berserker on you from downtown and because it will probably allow a fair share of offensive boards. But NU's play vs. Wisconsin showed me those are problems even against our matchup. So, I'd go 1-3-1. If your shooters - hey, John Shurna, Alex Marcotullio, and Juice - hit from downtown, where Minnesota is pitiful defending, you've got yourselves a game. If not, Wisconsin 2.0.

Yo, where's your post on how Minnesota handled West Virginia's 1-3-1 zone earlier in the year?: Watched that game. WV played zone for about five minutes at the end of the game. Mixed results, but mainly because they looked out of sorts after 35 minutes of playing against the man.

Should NU win?:
Not on the road.

Can NU win?: Tough to gauge if this is a real team or the one we saw against Illinois and Wisconsin. We can hope, though.

Game thread tonight, bros - all of you are invited, except those of you who don't cry watching Top Gun. You guys aren't true bros. (Full disclosure: I don't cry while watching Top Gun, but I wish I did.)