By Jeff Fett
Some big challenges are coming, but the Gopher men's basketball team appears to be coming together as they prepare for a tough stretch of games where they'll challenge some of NCAA basketball's elite.
The Gophers are off to a 4-0 start this year. So far, the Gophers have been dominant, with their closest game by 15 points. Head coach Tubby Smith says the team is starting to bond.
"I feel good about where we are as far as the play of our players. I felt good about it for the last few years. I just want to make sure we stay healthy," Smith said. " We have a very unselfish team and we're playing together."
While the Gophers haven't been challenged just yet, the first few games have helped the team gel with each other as they prepare to do battle with some of the nation's top programs.
Trevor Mbakwe and the Gophers take on Duke this Thanksgiving.
The Gophers are hitting a stretch where starting Nov. 22 they will play eight games in their next two-and-a-half weeks.
Over the Thanksgiving weekend, the Gophers will play in the Battle for Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas. In their opening round game, the Gophers will take on #5 Duke.
The tournament also features 2012 NCAA tournament qualifiers in Missouri, Virginia Commonwealth University, Louisville and Memphis. Stanford and the University of Northern Iowa will also participate in the tournament.
The Gophers do not get much of a break after the weekend tournament. On Nov. 27, they will travel to Tallahassee to play Florida State. The game with the Seminoles is a part of the ACC/Big Ten challenge.
After a couple of home games, the Gophers go back on the road to Los Angles to face the University of Southern California Dec. 8.
The schedule gets a little easier after the Dec. 11 game against North Dakota State University. The Gophers do not play a game for 11 days.
Smith says he'd rather not take some of these long road trips after the tournament, but that's how the schedule falls.
"We'd rather not be going into these places to be honest with you, but that's how it fell with the ACC/Big Ten Challenge," Smith said. "It is compressing a lot of games in a short period of time. Unfortunately we have that issue with our academic calendar--so that's why were like that. We play one game in about 11 days. I don't think anybody else has that long a break in the country, so its a real challenge for us in the scheduling, so that's why you see us with so many games in such a short
period of time."