Make no mistake. The Minnesota team entering the Bryce Jordan Center tonight to face Penn State at 7:00 P.M. on ESPN is by no means the team that raced out to 16-4 start and found itself ranked in the top 20 earlier this season, nor is it the resume building opportunity the Nittany Lions were probably hoping for when it was ranked that high a few weeks ago.
As the season winds down, though, it's a game Penn State has to have to stay in the NCAA Tournament at-large bid pool. Minnesota has lost four of its last five games and will be playing at the Jordan Center tonight without its top two guards, Devoe Joseph, who is transferring to Oregon, and Al Nolen, out with an injury.
The Golden Gophers (17-8, 6-7) do offer a big post challenge for the Lions, though. Forwards Trevor Mbakwe and Ralph Sampson III both average double figure scoring and Mbakwe also averages double figures in rebounds. Additionally, guys like Colton Iverson can come off the bench and offer solid minutes when those guys are off the floor.
And of course, Blake Hoffarber, averaging 13.6 points per game and leading Minnesota is scoring, is always dangerous on the perimeter. He averages roughly 39% shooting from beyond the arc.
Penn State would appear to have its full allotment of players tonight as Jeff Brooks started on Sunday against Northwestern, and appears at least serviceable the rest of the way, barring a reaggrevation of his shoulder injury.
For more on the game, check out Black Shoe Diaries.