As we did for the first contest with Minnesota in January, we exchanged questions with The Daily Gopher to shed some light on each other's teams.
Some questions are serious and some are lighthearted. I was even asked what the offspring would look like if Bucky and Goldy mated. My answers can be found here.
Here are The Daily Gopher's answers:
1) How are the Gophers different from what they were in January when they beat the Badgers at the Kohl Center?
We are not the same on the perimeter. Freshman, Devoe Joseph has really improved since the trip to Madison, but the rest of our guards have been very disappointing. Lawrence Westrbook scored 29 on the Badgers but since then he has failed to score more than six points in five different games. Blake Hoffarber has continued to struggle to find his stroke in Big Ten play. And Al Nolen not only struggled to score but his turnovers are up while his assists and steals are down. As a team the perimeter defense just isn't what it was prior to and including the Badger game.
In the front court we are still very good defensively and offensively we have shown slight improvement. The freshmen big men have been playing with more confidence and Damian Johnson is beginning to finally establish himself as the leader on the floor.
2) Explain to us the implications of this game for the Minnesota's post-season hopes. How will it affect their seeding in the Big Ten Tournament and is it a must-win in regards to the Gophers' NCAA Tournament chances?
I think if we win this game we are basically in. The biggest game for us will be Michigan this weekend as it may come down to them or us, so obviously a win would knock them down. But beating Wisconsin would not only be considered a "bigger" win but it would also give us season sweep and a tiebreaker for final Big Ten standings. Our RPI is pretty good, we have a couple nice wins on our resume but we have struggled recently so we still have work to do. Sweeping Wisconsin would be great on it's own merit but getting into the Tournament is what the season is all about.
3) How much better are the Gophers at home this season? And why is the home court advantage greater this year than in the past three seasons when the Badgers won at The Barn?
Well there are fans in the stands so the home court advantage is back to what it used to be. The way these guys play defense, the unique raised floor and the return of a loud crowd make this a difficult place to play for road teams.
4) At this point, are fans disappointed in the Gophers because they got off to such a promising start or are they still pleased with the progress that has been made in the last two seasons?
I think fans are getting ready for the roof to cave in like it often does for Gopher football fans (and the Vikings for that matter). The great start is meaningless if it ends in the NIT, but the great start is what we needed to get on the bubble and hopefully into the tournament.
5) Finally, who wins?
Since the win in Madison the Badgers have finally figured things out and are playing much better while Minnesota is really struggling over the last few weeks. But I'm a homer so Minnesota wins. My rationalization is that we've had a week to prepare while the Badgers had a significant game on Sunday so they only got a few days to prepare.