The Cowboys are coming off an impressive third place finish at the Advocare Invitational where a humbling loss to the defending national champs was sandwiched between dominant wins over quality opponents.
The run of quality opponents, and hopefully the positive momentum, continues into another tough four game stretch starting Friday with Minnesota. The game is the headliner for a small college basketball classic meant to serve as a test run for the 2019 Final Four venue. So while it’s not a true road game, it’s obviously a whole lot closer to the Gophers’ campus than it is to the Cowboys’.
Who: Minnesota (5-1, 0-0 Big Ten)
Where: U.S. Bank Stadium - Minneapolis, Minnesota
When: Friday November 30 - 9:00 p.m. CST
TV: Big Ten Network
Web Stream: FoxSportsGo
Live Stats: okstate.statbroadcast.com
- Curtis Jones: Out - Ineligible through semester
- Marcus Carr: Out - Ineligible
- Eric Curry: Out - Knee
Golden Gophers: G Amir Coffey (Jr), G Gabe Kalscheur (Fr), G Dupree McBrayer (Sr), F Jordan Murphy (Sr), C Daniel Oturu (Fr)
Minnesota (KenPom No. 50) is coming into this game off their first loss of the season at the hands of Boston College (KenPom No. 62) as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. They also have a handful of quality wins against Utah (112), Texas A&M (70), and Washington (44).
The Golden Gophers are led for the sixth season by Richard Pitino, and look to improve on what was a disappointing season last year due to injuries. The year before they made their way into the tournament for the first time under Pitino as a five seed before being bounced by tournament darlings Middle Tennessee. They return an average portion of their minutes, and are looking to add another important piece in Eric Curry by the time conference play starts.
Minnesota has even more length than the Cowboys, with no one in their starting lineup under 6’4, and only one bench player that is. They use that length to be a formidable rebounding team, something that gave the Cowboys fits in the Villanova game this past weekend.
They are led in scoring by Jordan Murphy, who averages a double-double at 14.3 points and 12.2 rebounds per game. Amir Coffey and Gabe Kalscheur also average double figures from the guard spots at 14.0 and 13.5 points per game respectively, but the other two starters in Dupree McBrayer and Daniel Oturu aren’t far off at 9.5 and 8.7 points per game. Oturu also chips in 6.8 rebounds per game to the Gophers’ assault on the boards. Minnesota’s balanced attack will require all five Cowboys on the court at any given time to be locked in on defense and on the glass.
Three Things to Watch For:
1. Battle on the Glass
I mentioned it above, but this is absolutely the top key to the game. The Cowboys have struggled most this year with ball security and getting out-rebounded. Since Minnesota doesn’t apply a lot of pressure, assignment sound, locked-in box outs will be crucial to limit the Gophers’ effectiveness.
2. Shooting in a Dome
This is one of those things that you really only start to hear about right before the Final Four, since it’s played in a football stadium. Well, that’s where this game takes place and it will probably have some effect on the game. The Cowboys are not the most reliant on the three-ball (81st in the country), but they do like to shoot it, and their adjustment to the wide-open backdrop the Vikings typically call home is important for them to maintain their hot shooting.
3. Setting the Tone
This was a key for the Memphis game, and I think it’s important here too. Not only is this the first of another tough four-game stretch against quality opponents (two Big Ten, two AAC), but Mike Boynton talked during media availability Wednesday about getting used to playing in these big environments because winning a National Championship is one of the goals he’s set for the program. This is obviously not that, but the mental aspect of competing on this stage could go a long way in bolstering the confidence of a young team looking to grow.