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Interview with a Golden Gopher: Minnesota Q&A

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The Badgers are hitting the road again and our friends, colleagues, workplace proximity acquaintances at The Daily Gopher answered some of our questions!

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Minnesota Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

The Wild, Wacky Wisconsin Badgers Basketball Experience rolls into Minneapolis on Wednesday night for a Border Battle showdown with the Minnesota Golden Gophers (11-10 overall, 5-6 B1G).

Wisconsin (13-9 overall, 6-5 B1G), like most teams in the conference, has struggled a bit on the road this year and going to The Barn is never an appealing proposition. It’s old, it smells like stale cigarette smoke, their floor is raised for some reason and Gopher fans are all vulgar, unsophisticated simps.

There will be plenty of talk about Maple Grove, Minnesota’s Brad Davison’s return from a one-game suspension and I can only imagine the vitriol that will be directed at him. While the Badgers don’t NEED this game for their NCAA Tournament hopes, winning at Minnesota would certainly go a long way towards making Selection Sunday less stressful.

We had a few questions about the Gophers basketball team this year and the gang over at The Daily Gopher, an unknown student newspaper on campus I think, was kind enough to answer them. I will also be in attendance for this game as a credentialed reporter, which will never stop being wild to me.

Hopefully Greg Gard doesn’t yell at me!

1) Sitting at 11-10 overall, the Gophers have clearly had an up and down season. Can you give us a quick overview of how things have gone for Minnesota and pick the best win of the season so far?

It hasn’t been too up and down really. The Gophers have played well at home and have slowly been getting better throughout the season. This team lost two of the program’s best players in a very long time from last year’s team. So this was going to be a transition year having to replace those guys while inserting several new names into the general rotation. Their best win has probably been the win at Ohio State. The Buckeyes have been struggling since December, but that was the first conference road win for the Gophers and it was much needed if they want to sneak into the NCAA Tournament.

2) What has helped Daniel Oturu make the leap from being a “pretty good player” his freshman year to “bonafide star” this season?

I’m not sure what the catalyst has been, but Oturu has been an absolute beast this year. It really hasn’t mattered which Big Ten center he has faced, he has won that match up. He has improved his jump shot, giving him legit range out to 15 feet and being capable of hitting a three.

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Minnesota Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

Around the rim he has really improved his rebounding and has just been more assertive. I had pretty serious questions about how he would respond to being an offensive focal point when Jordan Murphy graduated. But he has clearly answered those questions.

3) In conference play, the Gophers have shot a league-worst 27.1% from three. The Badgers are usually a much better shooting team at home than on the road, is that the case for the Gophers and who is the best long-range bomber on the team?

Three point shooting is what is holding this team back. The offseason talk around this team was about how they would look differently offensively, namely taking more threes. Which they are certainly doing. But they just cannot consistently make them.

Imagine this team with Daniel Oturu in the paint if this perimeter players were stretching the defense? A year ago Gabe Kalscheur was arguably the team’s best freshman and he made 41% of his three. He has been broken this season from outside. Peyton Willis is probably the most reliable from three right now. And to answer the first part of your question, yes, they are better at home. But not by much.

4) Who is an “under the radar” player that will make Wisconsin fans sound smart to their friends at the bar when they say “watch out for this guy”?

I’m going to say that would be Jarvis Omersa. He comes off the bench to play minutes at the 4 or the 5. Undersized but he is a spark plug. If he doesn’t foul out, the Gophers likely win at Purdue.

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Minnesota Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

He plays great interior defense, rebounds and if he gets loose for a couple dunks, he will really spark the Williams Arena crowd. In reality if there’s anyone to “look out” for, it will be one of the shooters. If any one shooter gets hot, this team is really good offensively.

5) Score prediction and leading scorer for the Gophers, please.

Home games against other teams that are not among the top-three in the conference, I’ll take the Gophers. Road games are an entirely different story. But I think the Gophers win Wednesday night at home. Oturu is likely the leading scorer but this game has the feel of one where Kalscheur gets hot and leads the team in scoring, while hitting four or five threes.

Roughly equal to the number of Brad Davison flops.

(Editor’s note: Almost made it without a Davison reference!)