Today’s game vs. Louisiana Monroe tips off at 2 p.m. at Williams Arena. Watch on BTN; listen live on 1500-a.m.
Five things to watch today, the Gophers last home game before a three-game stint in Puerto Rico this week:
- Louisiana Monroe is better than UMKC. That statement might be slightly worrisome to some Gophers fans who saw Minnesota struggle mightily at times against a Kangaroos team that should have been greatly overmatched from the start. Perhaps it should be concerning. Slotted at 196 in analyst Ken Pomeroy’s national rankings, the Warhawks look like a substantially bigger threat on paper with some solid guards in Nick Coppola and Justin Robertson and a center that has the potential for some big games. Speaking of which…
- Keep an eye on Majok Deng. He’s lanky to say the least but has found ways to be very effective. The 6-10, 190-pound big man averaged 7.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks a game a year ago, and might be even better now. Given the rawness of the Gophers current frontcourt, Deng's ability for prowess is certainly a concern. After two days of college basketball, Minnesota owned the best defense against two-point shots in the country, but then UMKC seemed mostly interested in the long ball. The Gophers will have to pack the paint more vs. Lousiana Monroe and could very well fall off that early post.
- About those three-pointers... Minnesota nailed 12 of ‘em on Friday, the ultimate key to its second-half tear. But the Gophers might not have such luck from the outside against Louisiana Monroe, who is more than adequate defensively and happens to specialize on the perimeter, where the Warhawks held opponents to 30.2 percent from three-point range a year ago, 15th best nationally.
- More time for Konate. In the second half on Friday, the Gophers used an undersized, three-guard lineup with Joey King standing in as the traditional big man, and that worked great vs. a scrappy but one-dimensional team that was unprepared to guard five shooters at once. But this matchup will be different, and sophomore center Bakary Konate, who played just six minutes (and managed 2 points and 3 blocks) vs. UMKC should see some more time on the floor. He looked pretty good moving around on that left foot that kept him out for more than a month, and now he’ll get his first real test vs. Deng. Should be fun to watch.
- The rebound battle. We’ve watched Minnesota’s efforts on the boards throughout the preseason and now poor rebounding has become a storyline after the very first game, with Minnesota losing that battle 42-37 vs. UMKC. That, as a trend, won’t do as the season continues. Was it a fluke? Can Minnesota grow? Or is this the struggle that could hold the Gophers back all year long?