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Michigan Wrap-Up; Purdue Pregame (1/5/14) Thoughts

Michigan Wrap-Up; Purdue Pregame (1/5/14) Thoughts 
January 4, 2014

Michigan Wrap-Up

  • We liked the distribution of minutes for the Gophers.
  • This coin-flip game had 9 ties and 10 lead changes. Minnesota went 5 minutes and 25 second FG drought starting with 5:53 to play spelled doom.
  • Relative to the RPI, a home loss is tougher on Minnesota than a road win would be helpful. Nonetheless, Michigan is a quality team that we expect to dance in March so no reason to get overly-down over a loss to the Wolverines. Plenty of time to get wins, although now things would get a bit uncomfortable should the Gophers fall to Purdue on Sunday.

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Michigan at Minnesota (1/2/14) Pregame Thoughts

Michigan at Minnesota (1/2/14) Pregame Thoughts
January 1, 2014

Minnesota begins conference play on Thursday, January 2, 2014 when the Michigan Wolverines visit the Barn. Game time is 6pm CT. The folks at UMHoops.com provide great coverage of the Michigan program and their site is worth a pre-game visit.

Our thoughts on these two teams haven’t changed: Minnesota has a chance to be a tournament team and Michigan should be a tournament team. It’s the first conference game for both squads but quite important.

The Wolverines are 8-4 but are better than their record. Several miscellaneous thoughts and insights on Michigan and this game can be found below.

Mitch McGary
McGary’s plan to have back surgery is a big headline item, but the impact on the Wolverines is overdone by some. Jordan Morgan is expected to start against the Gophers. He’s a senior who has almost 100 career starts.

Along with the 6’8”, 250 pound fifth year man Morgan, 6’10” junior Jon Horford gives Michigan veteran guys who can do a good job of filling in for McGary’s minutes. They’re not as good as McGary, but they can rebound and play solid, efficient basketball.
Continue reading Michigan at Minnesota (1/2/14) Pregame Thoughts

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Minnesota at Illinois – 1/9/2013 Pregame

A preview is now available at GopherHole via this link.

We think both teams are ranked a bit higher than they will be at season’s end and Illinois could very well be out of the Top 25 by then (they look more like a bubble team than #12 in the nation). Nonetheless, either team is capable of winning and these toss up games are important to win for a team like Minnesota who would love to contend for a conference title this year. In order to do so, these are the types of games that should be won.

John Groce gushed about the Gophers’ “depth” yesterday.  We may stand alone in our view that Minnesota is not a particularly deep team, but it is interesting to hear others speak so often and so strongly about the perceived depth of Tubby’s team.

Things won’t get easier for the Gophers. They’ll travel to Indiana next, then come home to face Michigan. Two wins out of the three games would be solid and just one wouldn’t be the end of the world… but the Illinois game provides the best opportunity of the three to get a win.

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Game Preview: Michigan State at Gophers 12/31/12

A game preview for the Spartans at Gophers is now available at GopherHole.com.

This is a really tricky game for the Gophers. We’re not down on Michigan State like many others are and they could jump right back into the Big Ten championship conversion with a strong start in the Big Ten. After Minnesota, the Spartans will have a good chance to pick up 3 or 4 wins with the following games: PURDUE, at Iowa, NEBRASKA, at Penn State.

Also, MSU athletic director Mark Hollis indicated yesterday that the four-game festival at Cowboys stadium next year isn’t going to happen. TV rights and money were the things that stopped it, but more than anything I think sanity prevailed. Not fans of the idea at all.

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Game Preview: Gophers at Southern Cal 12/8/12


#14/#21 Minnesota Golden Gophers (9-1) at Southern California Trojans (3-5)

Saturday, December 8, 2012 | 9:30pm CT | TV/Online: PAC-12 Network

The Gophers travel to Southern Cal for a Saturday night contest against the struggling Trojans, losers of four in a row. Coach Kevin O’Neill’s roster is filled with upperclassmen, but age has not translated to success for his team. Nearly 80% of USC’s minutes have been played by seniors and juniors (sophomore guard Byron Wesley averages 29.5 mpg), including a trio of 7-footers, however there has been little consistency in play on either side of the ball.

Minnesota beat USC 55-40 at Williams Arena last December. This year’s Trojans are better than the 2011-12 squad that finished 6-26, but to be blunt they’re not a good team.

The Gophers on the other hand are coming off another impressive showing, having beaten the Nate Wolter-less South Dakota State Jackrabbits Tuesday night in an 88-64 laugher. Minnesota shot a season-best 65.5% eFG% and limited their turnover rate to less than 20% for a third consecutive contest. Dre Hollins was in unconscious mode again, scoring 22 points on 8/9 shooting (including 6/7 3FG) and an eFG% of 122%.

North Dakota State visits Minneapolis this coming Tuesday and we think that’s a far tougher game for the Gophers than USC. The Trojans aren’t much of a threat from deep and while some of their players look the part, they haven’t been playing like it. Nonetheless, it’s a road game against a team that is feeling desperate for a victory so Minnesota should be met with a decent level of fight.

From an individual player perspective, UC-Irvine transfer #34 Eric Wise (10.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg) has been very good. He’s a strong  6’6”, 240 pound senior that had to take on a greater scoring role at his former school than he does at USC. With more help around him, Wise has improved his shot selection and continues to be a good defensive rebounder for his size.

Of the big men, #14 Dewayne Dedmon (6.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg) is the most intriguing. The 7’0”, 255 pound redshirt junior is a 23-year old who didn’t play basketball until he was a senior in high school due in large part to being a Jehovah’s Witness.

Last year Dedmon dealt with a few different injuries and against Minnesota he was hobbled but still saw 26 minutes of action (2 points on 1/5 shooting, 4 rebounds). His 2011-12 season ended in January with a torn MCL, but he’s averaged almost 23 minutes per game this year. Dedmon possesses a great wingspan and moves very well at his size. Every now and then he has a moment that keeps you believing that he might be able to realize much of his potential, but clearly he has a ways to go.

#20 J.T. Terrell (12.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg) is a 6’3” gunner who is willing to take some acrobatic shots, but comes into Saturday night with an eFG% of just 42.1% (18/50 3FG for 36.0%, but just 13/45 2FG for 28.9%). He’s the one player who can rack up a lot of points for USC if he finds his groove.

Terrell, #51 in the 2010 RSCI, attended Wake Forest as a freshman and put 32 on the Iowa Hawkeyes including a game-winning trey with 2.7 seconds left. Last season he played junior college ball at Peninsula JC (Wash.) and averaged 24.4 points per contest.

Saturday night’s game is being carried by the PAC-12 Network which is problematic for much of the Twin Cities crowd interesting in viewing the contest. A PAC-12 Network channel finder can be found HERE.

Some things we’ll be keeping an eye on:

  • Elliot Eliason vs. the USC big men: Eliason has been solid for Minnesota this year, but he’s often looked weak when defending on the blocks. Opposing offensive bigs have had success pushing Eliason toward the hoop with their back to the basket.
  • Turnovers: The level of Gopher turnovers in the past three games hasn’t been very low compared to the average college basketball team, but they’ve been low for the Gophers. Can they continue this promising trend against the Trojans?
  • Speaking of turnovers, would you think that the Gophers’ miscues occur more often at a certain time of the game? Late Night Hoops dug into the detail and found that the splits we looked at – four 10-minute intervals – were quite even:
    Time range (mins) Half 1, 1st 10 Half 1, 2nd 10 Half 2, 1st 10 Half 2, 2nd 10 TOTAL
    # of Turnovers  35  40  37  39  151
    % of Total  23.2%  26.5%  24.5%  25.8%  100%
  • Bounce back time for Rodney: Against SDSU, senior forward Rodney Williams registered just 2 points and 2 rebounds in 29 minutes on 1/6 FG shooting. He took out some of his offensive frustrations on defense with 4 aggressive blocked shots and hopefully he’s able to let the past be the past and come out with only USC on his mind. Williams has been excellent this year and it would be nice to see a strong performance Saturday, but he should not force the issue on offense.
  • Welch is due: Senior guard Julian Welch shot just 2/7 (0/4 3FG) against SDSU, but a few of his misses were ever-so-slightly off. Many of his attempts this year have been line drive lasers instead of arched shots aimed for the bottom of the net. This shooting issue is partly mechanical in nature and will improve. We continue to view him as an important piece of this season’s team and believe he is still underutilized. Last year against the Trojans, Julian led the Gophers with 16 points and 6 assists.

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Game Preview: Gophers at Florida State 11/27/12

Minnesota Golden Gophers (6-1) at Florida State Seminoles (4-1)
Tuesday, November 27, 2012 | 6:15pm CT | TV/Online: ESPN2

There is no debating that senior guard Michael Snaer is the leader of Florida State’s basketball team. However, head coach Leonard Hamilton is still trying to determine how the other talented pieces of his roster best fit together.

After a disappointing season opening loss to South Alabama, the Seminoles have won four in a row and at times have shown the potential to be a dangerous team in March. With many new faces in uniform, Hamilton has made frequent substitutions but recognizes that doing so can disrupt the ability of the team to get into a good flow and rhythm.

After beating North Florida, who the Gophers play Saturday afternoon at Williams Arena, Hamilton said, “I might have taken us a little out of sync by our substitution pattern” and added that he may not “be able to sub as liberally as much as we have in the past.”

Minnesota fans have expressed some concerns about Tubby Smith’s substitution patterns, but so far the game results have been good. The Gophers are 6-1 after beating Memphis and Stanford in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. Minnesota’s only loss this year came against Duke in the Bahamas on Thanksgiving Day.

Win or lose Tuesday night, the Gophers are in good shape with regard to their record. They will likely be favorites in the remainder of their nonconference games and in a position where a conference record of 9-9 or better gets them into the NCAA tournament.

Below you’ll find a TEAM section and a PLAYERS section that each preview Florida State in more detail. In case you missed it, updated commentary on individual Minnesota players was included in last week’s Duke game preview. For additional information on the Gophers and Big Ten basketball, go to LateNightHoops.com.

TEAM

For the past several years, the Seminoles have been known for their defense and that will be their primary area of strength again this year. The roster has a good mix of young and old and a tremendous amount of height and length.

SHOOTING
Snaer has the ability to take over games, but overall the shooting of Florida State is not going to beat you. The team’s top two shooters (eFG%) last season were seniors (Bernard James at 60.6% and Deividas Dulkys at 54.9%) and we expect the team will be a weak in this area again in 2012-13.

The Gophers tend to struggle shooting against strong defenses and with the size up front for Florida State, points could be hard to come by unless Minnesota is picking up contract and getting to the line.

Both teams can be fairly mentioned when discussing the top shot blocking squads in the nation and neither roster is filled with 3-point shooters.

REBOUNDING
With field goal shooting being a question mark for both teams in this contest, the ability to get easy second chance points off the glass could be a deciding factor in this one.

Minnesota’s offensive rebounding has been very impressive. While Trevor Mbakwe has been elite (over 15% OR%), almost everyone up front has been at least good or great.

This battle will boil down to heart and should be won the Gophers, but keep an eye on how Florida State utilizes their players against Minnesota, who has not been a great defensive rebounding team. In addition to helping the Seminoles work the offensive glass, more time on the floor for some of the Seminole’s trees should help to mitigate some of the Gophers’ skill at getting their own misses.

TURNOVERS
Slop city. Both teams are known for giving up the ball, although Minnesota’s turnovers tend to be a bit more weighted to steals by the other team while the faster-paced Seminoles are being more creative with their giveaways.

Be prepared to see some high turnover numbers on Tuesday. Florida State has the slight edge here, but both defenses are good at creating steals and scoring in transition. Along with offensive rebounding, a big difference in points off turnovers in transition is a key area to watch.

FREE THROWS
We aren’t going to talk about free throw percentage because it’s not very important.  Getting to the line? That’s a different story (although still not very important in most games).

The Gophers have been great at getting to the line and will want to secure a nice advantage over Florida State in free throw rate. The Seminoles, especially Michael Snaer, have been making frequent trips to the line so far this year, but the team in general isn’t as good at drawing fouls as their current year numbers indicate.

With the ball, Minnesota needs to test Florida State’s big men and consistently be aggressive and physical inside. On defense the Gophers cannot afford to bail out the Seminole’s by giving them attempts at the charity stripe – force them to make shots from the field.

Florida State Seminoles Speed Mini Helmet

PLAYERS

#21 Michael Snaer (14.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 40.4% 3FG in 2011-12) is a 6’5” guard that impacts the game at both ends of the floor and could earn a guaranteed NBA contract next summer. He’s off to a strong start this year, averaging 16.0 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. He’s a dangerous spot shooter and an all-around smart player. Ranked #17 in the 2009 RSCI.

Junior forward #10 Okaro White (7.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg) is still slim at 6’8”, 204 pounds, but he’s a lot bigger than he was a few years ago and looks to be ready for a decent jump in offensive production this season. Defensively he’s similar to Rodney Williams for Minnesota in that his size, quickness and athleticism allow him to defend both on the perimeter and inside. White was ranked #43 in the final 2010 RSCI.

He’s got a new number and a repaired shoulder, but the often-injured #2 Terrance Shannon is ready to go. He averaged 8.3 points and 4.4 rebounds in 7 games last year before his season was cut short due to injury, but the 6’8”, 240 pound forward with broad shoulders has looked strong early this year. Shannon is a powerful man inside for the Noles who could overpower Eliason if the Gophers’ center is defending him.

#30 Ian Miller (10.3 ppg, 35.4% 3FG), a 6’3” combo guard, has a bruised bone in his right foot and was kept out of Florida State’s game last Wednesday. It’s believed he could play against Minnesota, but not certain he will. Miller provides offense for a team that can sometimes have trouble scoring, so his game time status will be important to monitor. Miller was #35 in the 2010 RSCI.

Others to Watch:

  • Freshman #5 Montay Brandon can cause problems for Minnesota’s defense as he’s a long 6’7” point guard. Granted, he’s not a typical lead guard at this point, but his size and athleticism is evident and the young man can score. Brandon was ranked #60 in the 2012 RSCI.
  • #31 Terry Whisnant (2.1 ppg, 1.0 rpg) is a 6’3” sophomore guard who didn’t play much as a freshman, but he’s a capable scorer who isn’t afraid to shoot. Has shot 7/15 3FG this season.
  • Originally from Alaska, freshman guard #1 Devon Bookert has been good off the bench and leads the team with 15 assists while averaging 4.8 ppg.
  • Former Brewster Academy guard #25 Aaron Thomas is another guard who, as a freshman, is unproven at this level but was a big time scorer as prep.
  • Florida State has three seven-foot-plus options. JUCO transfer #11 Kiel Turpin will likely get the start and we think he can be good for the Seminoles this year. He spent last season gaining size and weight and now carries 240 pounds on his 7’0”. Still not an especially strong guy, Turpin can score with a decent mid-range jumper.
  • Freshman #15 Boris Bojanovsky weighs 240 pounds, but is a bit thin at a legit 7’3”.
  • Finally, 7’1”, 290 pound freshman #50 Michael Ojo boasts a 7’8” wingspan. He’s very raw, but physically the most imposing of the Seminole seven-footers.

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Game Preview: Gophers vs. Stanford 11/24/12

Minnesota Golden Gophers (5-1) vs. Stanford Cardinal (4-2)
Saturday, November 24, 2012 | approx. 2:30pm CT | TV/Online: AXS.tv

Sophomore Andre Hollins carried Minnesota to victory with a 41-point performance as the Gophers handled the Memphis Tigers 84-75. Hollins had been struggling from the field this year, but caught fire early and finished 12-of-16 overall including a perfect 5-of-5 from 3-point range. The point guard also made 12-of-13 free throw attempts.

Later Friday afternoon, Stanford’s own sophomore point guard Chasson Randle would try to break out of his shooting slump after beginning the year 3-for-22 from behind the arc. While he didn’t score as many as Andre Hollins, Randle also led his team to victory with a strong 21 point, 6 assist and 5 rebound performance. The Cardinal handled a pesky Northern Iowa team by a final score of 66-50.

Minnesota and Stanford now meet for fifth place in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. The two programs last met in March when Stanford walloped the Gophers 75-51 in the NIT title game.  In that game Randle scored 15 points and the other two double-figure scorers from that Cardinal team are on this year’s roster as well. However, those other two are injured.

Guard Aaron Bright tied Randle for a team-high 15 points last March and wing Anthony Brown added 12 points and 6 rebounds. While there’s a chance they could try to play through injury on Saturday, both Bright and Brown have been kept out of the lineup thus far in the Bahamas.

While much of the personnel on the floor for Stanford will look different than it did in the NIT game, the team’s profile is much the same.

The Cardinal will play tough defense that focuses on limiting easy buckets and will try to force Minnesota to make contested shots. Last spring the Gophers were playing inspired offense until they ran into Stanford, who forced 22 turnovers and limited the ‘U’ to just 37.3% shooting (40.2% eFG). From an offensive efficiency perspective, the NIT championship game was the second worst for the Gophers in five seasons under Tubby Smith.

Chasson Randle, once a recruiting target of the Gophers, is a legitimate scoring threat and 6’10” Canadian face up forward Dwight Powell can cause matchup problems, but overall Stanford’s offensive attack won’t scare Minnesota.

The Gophers should be favored to win as they were against Memphis. Their shooting won’t be as good as it was Friday (57.1% eFG) so a reduction in turnovers (17 against the Tigers) and better defensive rebounding will be important. The Tigers rebounded the ball off the offensive glass 19 times or 45.2% of the time, including 15 (50.0%) in the second half. An edge in second chance points for Memphis during the second half of 13-3 kept them in the game despite Tarik Black and Joe Jackson being on the floor for a combined 9 minutes.

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OTHER NOTES

  • Austin Hollins went just 2/8 from the field (1/5 3FG), but did have 6 steals, 5 assists and 3 rebounds against Memphis.
  • Rodney Williams scored 13 points and added 6 rebounds, 3 assists and blocked 3 shots.
  • The Gophers made 28-of-33 free throw attempts (84.8%).

For additional information on the Gophers and Big Ten basketball, go to LateNightHoops.com.

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Game Preview: Gophers vs. Duke Blue Devils 11/22/12

Minnesota Golden Gophers (4-0) vs. #5/#5 Duke Blue Devils (3-0)
Thursday, November 22, 2012 | approx. 2:30pm CT | TV/Online: AXS.tv

Minnesota heads into a nonconference gauntlet with four challenging games over six days. It ends next Tuesday in Tallahassee against Florida State, but the first battle is in the Bahamas where the Gophers take on the Duke Blue Devils in the quarterfinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis on Thanksgiving Day.

In 2011-12, Coach K’s team defense was uncharacteristically bad (mediocre for most teams, but bad for them). The Blue Devils ranked #70 in adjusted defensive efficiency per KenPom.com (Minnesota was #48) and were mediocre in almost every area. Their “strength” was limiting the opposition to 31.7% 3-point shooting, which we believe was largely due to chance as opposed to skill.

With a strong offense, however, Duke carried a 27-6 record into the NCAA tournament where they earned a No. 2 seed and a date with Lehigh. C.J. McCollum would score 30 and lead the Mountain Hawks to a 75-70 victory, putting an end to Duke’s season.

Members of the 2011-12 Duke team, Austin Rivers moved on to the NBA and Andre Dawkins is taking a year off from college basketball. It wasn’t difficult to find defensive upgrades for those two and Duke’s defense will be better this year. How much better is yet to be seen.

In Thursday’s game, Duke has an advantage in the area of turnovers and Minnesota a small advantage in rebounding. However, the story of this one figures to be field goal shooting.

On offense Duke has a ton of options which we discuss in more detail in the PLAYERS TO WATCH – Blue Devils section below. Unless they have an off shooting night, Duke’s offensive arsenal may be too much for the Gophers to handle.

So far this season, Minnesota has limited their opponents to an effective field goal percentage (eFG%) of 31.5%. Two opponents shot an eFG% of less than 27.5% and the best performance was a paltry 36.4% eFG% by Richmond. The Gopher defenders have created steals, blocked shots and been excellent at forcing their foes to settle for 2-point jump shots. In addition, the opposition has gone 13/68 or 19.1% from 3-point range.

Duke’s eFG% this year is 56.3% and the last time they shot less than 40% eFG% in a single game was in the 2009-10 season. Surely something has to give and it’s most likely going to be Minnesota’s defense.

However, don’t count the Gophers out. This can be a fairly even matchup on paper between two teams with a nice mix of veterans and young talent. We say “can be” because Minnesota’s use of their bench could sway things in favor of the Blue Devils.

As we discussed in our preseason preview of Minnesota, we don’t subscribe to the popular belief that coach Tubby Smith’s team is particularly deep. You’ll probably hear the television broadcasts say that the Gophers are a very deep team and most of the media will continue say it for some time to come, but key to this game and this season is going to be how Smith uses his roster.

Below you’ll find a PLAYERS TO WATCH sections highlighting specific Blue Devils and Gophers. In addition, an OTHER NOTES section covers several miscellaneous areas. For additional information on the Gophers and Big Ten basketball, go to LateNightHoops.com.

PLAYERS TO WATCH – Blue Devils

Senior #5 Mason Plumlee (11.1 ppg, 9.2 rpg in 2011-12) is a 6’10”, 235 pound active big man who has progressed nicely throughout his years at Duke and moves well for his size. While Mason may be too strong for Elliot Eliason to handle by himself, he also may be too athletic for Maurice Walker to deal with. Plumlee is a very good rebounder on both sides of the court, but especially excels on the defensive end.

Plumlee will usually play within the team concept and take good shots as they come to him as opposed to forcing things. Nonetheless, he is prone to turnovers. In addition, despite having made 14 of 15 free throw attempts in the last two games, he’s a horrible free throw shooter.

He’s an important part of Duke’s team, but far from the only player of note. That said, his 21.7 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 77.4% FG shooting and frequent trips to the line so far this year are very impressive.

Another senior with size, 6’11” #34 Ryan Kelly (11.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 40.8% 3FG), was able to convert 40 3-point attempts last year and can cause matchup problems with his skill set. We’re not convinced he’ll be able to shoot over 40% from behind the arc again this season, but he is a perimeter shooting threat.

For his size, Kelly is not a great rebounder or particularly tough inside, but he is an efficient offensive player who shoots well and doesn’t turn the ball over much. In fact, he contributed more Offensive Value Add than any other Blue Devil in 2011-12 despite playing just over 800 minutes.  He’s averaging 10.7 ppg and 5.0 rpg this year.

#30 Seth Curry (13.2 ppg, 38.3% 3FG) is a 6’2” senior guard that is always ready to put up a shot. About half of his attempts came from 3-point range last season and he heads into Thursday’s game with a career 40.7% average from behind the arc.

This season Curry is averaging 16.0 ppg and led the team with 23 points in their victory over Kentucky.

Freshman #14 Rasheed Sulaimon (11.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.7 apg, 44.4% 3FG in 3 games this year) is legit. Curry will get shots up and both Plumlee and Kelly are capable of scoring a lot of points, but a hot Sulaimon could put Minnesota’s hopes to rest.

The long 6’4” guard who played with the excellent Houston Hoops AAU program has struggled inside the arc (2/13 2-point shooting for 15.4%), but he can score at all levels. Sulaimon, a 2012 McDonald’s All-American, is an extremely impressive scorer that can convert buckets in bunches.  His length helps him on defense and we’re big fans of his overall game as well as being high on how his future projects.

Second year point guard #2 Quinn Cook (11.7 mpg, 4.4 ppg, 3.5:1 a:to ratio) started for the first time this year against Florida Gulf Coast, but is averaging over 26 mpg in Duke’s three contests and should get the start against the Gophers. With plenty of offensive weapons, Cook needs to concentrate on running the offense, distributing the ball and playing strong defense.  However, don’t let his 3-point shooting as a freshman (14/56 3FG for 25.0%) fool you – he can knock down shots as well.

Cook is a charismatic kid who entertained folks on the AAU circuit with his beautiful passing, but sometimes he can be a little bit “too innovative” with his dishes. Minnesota needs to be careful not to swarm when Cook gets penetration or he will kick the ball out to the wing where Sulaimon, Curry or Kelly will be waiting to launch. We believe things will really come together for Cook as the season progresses. He’s an exciting and talented player.
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Others to Watch:

  • #3 Tyler Thorton can play with Cook or handle the point guard duties when Quinn is out. Although Duke needs both players to concentrate on taking care of the ball and distributing the rock, Thorton will tend to shoot far less than Cook. Still, the junior Thorton shot a respectable 35.1% from 3-point range last year.
  • Although they haven’t played much, Duke has talented size on the bench if needed. We’re big fans of #21 Amile Jefferson, a long 6’8” freshman from Philadelphia and 2012 McDonald’s All American.
  • Big #15 Josh Hairston, a junior who stands 6’7”, 240 pounds, and 6’8” redshirt freshman #12 Alex Murphy have also seen limited minutes this year.
  • Redshirt frosh #40 Marshall Plumlee has been out with a left foot injury, but could return any time. He’s 6’11”, 235 pounds and a Plumlee, but based on his recent injury and our expectations of him this season (based on a number of factors, including watching him quite a bit in high school), Gopher fans shouldn’t be alarmed if they hear Marshall has been cleared to play in Thursday’s game.
    Duke Blue Devils Youth Royal Perennial II Long Sleeve T-Shirt

PLAYERS TO WATCH – Gophers

#33 Rodney Williams may not outwardly embrace the role, but he is the leader of this team right now. The 6’7” senior forward is averaging 14.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game and his defense – which is very important to his NBA aspirations – has been excellent.

Rodney is by far his best around the basket, but the occasional dribble drives and jump shots have been working for him this year as well. Williams is electrifying in transition, on offensive put backs and when he receives a pass on a cut to the basket. His possession usage is just over 21% which is the highest of his career. Rodney still defers at times when he doesn’t need to and just a bit more consistency on his offensive aggressiveness could propel him even further. We can’t argue much with a 75.0% eFG%, though.

Sophomore point guard #1 Andre Hollins has struggled from the field, but should be feeling confident after contributing 7 much needed points and earning 2 steals in a span of less than 80 seconds against Richmond. Dre is now averaging 9.3 ppg and has 20 assists to 10 turnovers in 4 games. He is Minnesota’s best version of a go to scorer and will need to put points up against Duke.

Junior wing #20 Austin Hollins is tied with Williams’ average of 14.5 ppg and has been excellent both from deep (8/18 3FG for 44.4%) and on his 2-point attempts (12/18 for 66.7%). With sneaky athleticism and large wingspan, Hollins creates a lot of steals and is very good on defense. Like Williams, he isn’t always as aggressive on offense as he could be, but is Minnesota’s best sniper from outside and capable of doing a lot more with the ball than he sometimes demonstrates.

#32 Trevor Mbakwe has been coming off the bench, but did play 27 minutes against Richmond. In the first two games of this year, Mbakwe, who is coming off an ACL tear that happened last November, looked a bit tentative at times. For the past two, he’s looked great and mostly back to his old self. Trevor’s ability to rebound and defend, as well as his intensity and aggressiveness on a team who has some softer spoken guys, elevates the team to one that can be excellent.

However, he needs to play. Mbakwe is averaging 6.0 points and 6.0 rebounds in 16.3 minutes per game. If he’s in for 30-35 minutes a night, the Gophers can compete with anyone. That said, we expect Tubby Smith will have him coming off the bench against Duke.

#11 Joe Coleman is a strong 6’4” sophomore guard who can draw contact with the best of them. He can put on amazing displays by finishing at the rim and getting to the line against some defenses. However, when those options are limited by the opposition, Coleman can become a turnover machine or settle for jump shots which he converts at a very low rate. Joe is averaging 10.0 points per game and has made 11 of his 22 2-point attempts, but our unofficial stat tracking has him at just 2/13 on 2-point attempts not at the rim (and 9/9 at the rim).

Coleman is a great weapon and strong, athletic kid, but his offense must be more efficient.

We’ve made no secret of our belief that combo guard #00 Julian Welch is underrated, but the senior from California hasn’t helped make our case yet this year. In 13.5 mpg, Julian is averaging 2.8 ppg and is shooting 25.0% from the field (and 1/5 3FG for 20.0%). Welch isn’t as athletic as some of the other Gophers, but last season he and Austin Hollins were behind only Rodney Williams in terms of Value Add to the team.

The 6’3” guard averaged almost 25 minutes and 9.5 points per game in 2011-12 and shot 43.8% 3FG (46/105). So far this season he hasn’t gotten an opportunity to get into the flow of things, but we believe the senior reserve is a key to pushing the Gophers from good to great and should be given more playing time in the Bahamas. In addition to his ability to play the point and hit the mid-range jumper, Welch can provide Minnesota with a important third 3-point shooter on the court when used with Dre Hollins and Austin Hollins.

Redshirt sophomore big men #55 Elliot Eliason and #15 Maurice Walker provide two different looks at center. Eliason (17.0 mpg, 3.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 9 blks) uses his 6’11” height to set picks, defend, rebound and block shots. Big Mo Walker (8.3 mpg, 3.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg) is playing this year for the first time after a December 2010 PCL injury. He lacks much lift but uses his huge base and nearly 6’10” height to out-physical players inside and get to rebounds.

Walker is one of those unique large bodies who possess a delicate touch when shooting the ball. He can score if fed the ball within the regular offense and can also rack up points in conjunction with cleaning the offensive glass. Similar to Welch, we feel that more playing time for Mo Walker can be a significant positive for this team.

Minnesota Golden Gophers Maroon Nike Basketball Team Issue Practice Dri-FIT T-Shirt

OTHER NOTES

  • Add Duke to the list of schools interested in Minnesota target Gavin Schilling (2013). Since his decision to transfer to Findlay Prep, we’ve believed the likelihood of Schilling winding up with the Gophers wasn’t very high and continue to believe that.
  • Minnesota will play either Memphis or Virginia Commonwealth on Friday. Game time will be noon CT if the Gophers lose and 6pm CT if they win.
  • One of the best basketball players on either team’s roster won’t play Thursday. Duke’s Rodney Hood is sitting out this season after transferring in from Mississippi State. You’ll hear his name year from now.
  • Duke senior guard Andre Dawkins (8.4 ppg in 2011-12) is not practicing or traveling with the team, but is expected to return next year. Dawkins is redshirting this season while he deals with personal matters.
  • Minnesota has four seniors on its roster, but just one who has played four seasons for the Gophers – Rodney Williams. In 105 games with Williams on the floor, Minnesota is 62-43, a winning percentage of 59.0%.
  • With Duke senior Ryan Kelly on the floor, the Blue Devils are 93-13, an impressive winning percentage 87.7%.
  • The Gophers received the 26th most votes in this week’s AP poll.
  • LNH’s 2012-13 Minnesota Gophers preseason preview article can be found HERE.
  • LNH’s Gopher Preseason Player Previews can be found HERE.

We’ve found some amazing discounts (20% and more) for the Thanksgiving holiday week. Click on the Duke shorts below and explore – great pricing on Duke and Minnesota merchandise.

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