Just how much has the Minnesota men’s basketball team improved under the tutelage of new head coach Tubby Smith?
That question, among others, might be answered tonight when the undefeated Gophers travel to Tallahassee to take on Florida State as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
Tip-off is slated for 6:30 p.m. at the Tucker Center.
Minnesota (3-0 overall, 0-0 Big Ten) has looked like a revitalized squad throughout the early portion of its schedule, winning home games by double-digit margins and pulling off a road win against Iowa State despite a hostile environment in Ames, Iowa, seven days ago.
But the team isn’t getting ahead of itself. The Gophers realize, despite their success, they have much to improve upon (Read: 24 turnovers in their 77-59 win against Central Michigan at Williams Arena Saturday night).
Coach Tubby Smith said the team has focused on taking care of the ball in practice in hopes of proving Saturday’s turnover mess an exception, not a trend. Smith said it’s a worrisome statistic, nonetheless.
“The turnovers we had the other day do concern me going on the road,” he said.
Who are these guys?
While Minnesota is still trying to find its identity after three regular season games, the veteran Seminoles (5-2, 0-0 ACC) are surprisingly trying to find themselves after seven games.
Coach Leonard Hamilton’s team has lost to Cleveland State and South Florida, but dominated two-time defending national champion Florida 65-51 on Friday.
Smith said he isn’t concerned with Florida State’s early season losses. Rather, he is focused on containing the athletic and experienced Seminole’s squad that went into Gainesville and knocked off the Gators.
“It’s early yet and everybody is kind of up and down,” Smith said. “I can’t answer what their issues are, I know what ours are. They are trying to find out what they do best and I think they found it against Florida.”
Smith said he believes handling the Seminoles’ speed and athleticism will be the Gophers’ biggest challenge, but said his team won’t adjust its game plan much for the Seminoles.
“We are going to try and play the way we play. We’ve got to do what we do best,” he said. “They want to play up-tempo, we want to play up-tempo. I think it’s going to be a high-scoring game.”
Senior forward Dan Coleman called tonight’s matchup against Florida State a tournament résumé game.
Coleman said for Minnesota to have a legitimate chance to qualify for the NCAA tournament, it needs to win road games against reputable conferences such as the Atlantic Coast Conference to improve its RPI.
“If we’re trying to play in March, these games that are played in November and December are huge,” he said.
“Anytime you get a Big Ten, ACC, SEC, Big 12, any reputable conference, that’s huge for you,” Coleman said. “(If) you take that game from them, especially on their home court, it says a little bit more than if you (win) at your house.”