Minnesota tips off with Milwaukee at 7 p.m. at Williams Arena. Watch online on ESPN3 (subscription only) or listen live on 1500-a.m.
Check out my story on junior Charles Buggs – the Gophers highly intelligent, high-flying enigma.
Previewing both teams here.
And what coach Richard Pitino might want for Christmas, here.
Three things to watch as the Gophers wrap up the non-conference slate:
Mini Wisconsin and mini Frank Kaminsky. Longtime Bo Ryan assistant Rob Jeter did a long internship in the Swing Offense and fundamentals of what ultimately became Wisconsin ball. Earlier this month, Milwaukee found a way to beat the Badgers at their own game, when Ryan – who abruptly retired last week – was still at the helm. Minnesota coach Richard Pitino has perked up and taken notice. Tuesday, he called the Panthers “mini-Wisconsin” and dubbed Milwaukee center Matt Tiby a “mini Frank Kaminsky,” referencing the former Badger and last season’s National Player of the Year, who currently plays for the Charlotte Hornets. Tiby is currently tied for 11th nationally with 7.58 defensive rebounds per game. He’s also leading Milwaukee with 15.8 points per game and is shooting 37.5 percent from three-point range. “There are a lot of matchup issues in how you guard him on the court,” Pitino said. “They do a lot of what Wisconsin does and that’s a credit to their coach, he’s built it …they make you pay. You’ve got to pick and choose where you want to attack them. It’s a very good offensive team.”
The King’s slump. Joey King is still leading the Gophers with 14.1 points a game, but the distance is closing with the senior forward mired in an offensive skid. In the last three games, averaging just six points and shooting 28.6 percent from the field in that span. King’s biggest offensive contribution has been from three-point range, where he’s knocked down 44.6 of his attempts, 25 shots overall. But when King’s long ball isn’t sinking, or he’s getting chased off the line, he has trouble finding an offensive consistency in other ways. Last week, he was visibly frustrated on the court in a win over Chicago State, dropping his head after missing a shot and letting a rebound bounce right past him. “We’ve got to mentally get to the point where you miss a shot you’re thinking two things: get the rebound or I’ve got to get back,” Pitino said. “But putting your head down because you’re frustrated with yourself hurts the team.” Pitino has talked about him rolling to the basket more for layups, but he’s had a hard time grabbing offensive boards or physically forcing his way to the basket on the regular. Can he break out of his slump one way or the other before the Big Ten starts?
It’s raining threes. Milwaukee averages 9.3 three-pointers a game and has shot 24 in the last two. What’s the problem? Minnesota statistically has some of the worst three-point defense in college basketball. The Gophers have allowed opponents to shoot 38.8 percent, a flurry that ranks 309th among 351 Division I teams. Minnesota has given up just 11 in the last two games and Chicago State and Oklahoma State have shot a combined 30.6 percent in that span. But neither squad was an especially good shooting team. Can the Gophers keep up the pace vs. Milwaukee, which hits at a clip of 36 percent?
THE NUMBER: 18
Last time out, freshman Jordan Murphy, who just keeps hitting new heights, corralled 18 rebounds, which no Gopher had done since Trevor Mbakwe in 2012. According to Minnesota associate director Dan Reisig, it’s also a freshman record, at least going back to the 1957-58 season, which is as far back as the records go.