Golden Gophers Face First Real Test

Dan WadeSenior Analyst IDecember 2, 2008

Like their football counterparts, Tubby Smith's Golden Gophers have gotten off to a great start against a set of fairly soft opponents. Finally, the Gophers are consistently beating teams they should beat, which wasn't always the case under Dan Monson.

6-0 is great, but its where the Gophers should be. A loss to Georgia Southern would have been a huge upset and a sign that little had changed from the years when the Gophers' NCAA hopes were hanging by a thread before the Big Ten season even started.

Tonight, the Gophers have a chance to move to 7-0 at the expense of an opponent who can actually give them a game. UVA is just 3-2 after starting 3-0, but they are still a member of the ACC, a conference that has given the Gophers fits over the years.

The Gophers haven't won their game in the Big Ten/ACC challenge since the 2002-2003 season, which saw them go relatively deeply into the NIT. It would be very easy to overstate the importance of tonight's game, but it's really just another non-conference game. A loss tonight would be disappointing, but not the end of the world.

Nevertheless, if the Gophers have postseason hopes this year, then this is the type of game they need to win. Home games against mediocre teams should be games the Gophers can count on winning, since the Big Ten looks to be competitive once again.

Tubby Smith and company certainly have enough talent to do well this season, and their potential is very high. A win tonight would be a nice way to get over a hurdle that has caught the Gophers for the past five years, and would make a nice foundation to build on as they gear up for their upcoming game with #11 Louisville.