Game Preview: NDSU at Gophers 12/11/12

North Dakota State Bison (8-2) at #13/#16 Minnesota Golden Gophers (10-1)
Tuesday, December 11, 2012 | 8:00pm CT | TV/Online: BTN

Last December North Dakota State came into Williams Arena and took advantage of a sluggish start by Minnesota. Eventually the Gophers won 63-59, led by Ralph Sampson’s 15 points, rebounds, 4 blocks and 2 steals.

The Bison return most of their players from a year ago, which was an especially young squad. They were picked to finish second in the Summit League behind South Dakota State in the 2012-13 preseason poll (media, coaches and SIDs combined).

NDSU is talented enough to make a run at the top spot in the Summit this season and with no major minutes going to seniors they should be in the conference champion conversation again next season.

This game is one we’ve had circled since the beginning of the year because, to us, the chances of an upset looked more likely than in any other nonconference home game. True, the Bison don’t match up very well with Minnesota and are athletically over-matched  The Gophers should easily handle NDSU on Tuesday (the money says Gophers by 14); however the Bison have some of the pieces needed to get out of Williams Arena with a victory.

If the 3-point shot is falling for North Dakota State and the Gophers aren’t being wise with their shot selection, this one could get interesting. NDSU has an efficient post player, several 3-point shooters, an athletic wing and a 30%+ usage scorer. We like how coach Saul Phillips has constructed his roster and wouldn’t be surprised to see a Cinderella story coming out of Fargo in March of this year or next.

North Dakota State Bison Kids/Youth Football Helmet and Uniform Set

PLAYERS

One of several Minnesotans, #42 Marshall Bjorklund (11.4p, 5.3r so far in 2012-13) is a model of efficiency inside. He’s a smart player with good size (6’8”, 240) and along with shooting very well he can make an impact on the offensive glass.

#24 Taylor Braun (15.9p, 6.4r) might force things at times on the offensive end, but he’s certainly the Bison’s go to guy. From deep, the 6’7” junior forward is shooting 43% this year and on the defensive side of the court he has consistently rebounded extremely well throughout his career.

#32 TrayVonn Wright (9.1p, 5.8r, 1.7b) adds athleticism to a team otherwise lacking in that area. The slim 6’7” forward from Waterloo, Iowa has been good on both sides of the ball this season where he uses his length and athletic ability to gain an advantage. He’s attempting 2.5 3-point shots a game, but behind the arc is not where Wright will hurt you.

Hailing from Redwood Falls, Minn., junior guard #3 Mike Felt (10.9p) comes off the bench, but averages more than 21 minutes a game. He’s able to provide an offensive boost thanks to great 3-point shooting (30/65 for 46.2% this season and 44.8% career). He’s good at finding ways to get open and Minnesota needs to have a strong plan on how to limit his chances.

Other players to watch:

  • #12 Lawrence Alexander (9.1p, 3.1r, 3.1a). Started at PG as true freshman and continues to start this year. His shooting and turnover numbers this year aren’t where they need to be, but he’s capable of having a good game.
  • #22 Kory Brown is a 6’4” (5.0p, 3.0r) freshman wing who has started every game. He’s a very low-usage guy at this point, but solid so far.
  • Redshirt freshman #34 Chris Kading (7.0p, 4.0r) is averaging 19 mpg off the bench and is fairly athletic for his size. The 6’8”, 220 pound forward is capable of shooting from the outside, although that’s not a big part of his game.

OTHER NOTES:

  • The Gophers had their worst (tied with Duke game) offensive game of the season Saturday night at USC, but it was more than good enough to beat the Trojans. Minnesota’s out-shot Southern Cal 47.3% to 43.5% eFG thanks to a 6-to-1 3PM advantage.
  • Minnesota’s first half shooting of 53.0% eFG was followed up with a 38.6% second half performance.
  • The Gophers had their weakest night of the year on the offensive glass, but also had their best night on the defensive glass. USC’s Dewayne Dedmon had half of his team’s 8 offensive boards while Rodney Williams had 5 of Minnesota’s 11.
  • Andre Hollins led the Gophers with 14 points, but had just 1 assist and 5 turnovers.
  • Off the bench Julian Welch had 6 points, 4 assists and just 1 turnover in 17 minutes. Welch nailed 2 of 4 3-point attempts and earned 2 steals.  He’s second behind Austin Hollins on the team’s steal % rankings this season. We still like the idea of a lineup with Welch, Hollins, Hollins, Williams and Mbakwe.

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