Update: Tonight's starting lineup is Mason, Morris, Buggs, King and Gaston Diedhiou. Bakary Konate warmed up on the court before the game and is expected to be available.
University of Minnesota men’s basketball opens its season tonight vs. UMKC at Williams Arena. The game will be streamed on BTN-plus.
I expect the lineup to be the same as it was through a pair of exhibition games with one exception: a healthy-ish Bakary Konate taking the post from Gaston Diedhiou. That lineup:
PG Nate Mason, SG Carlos Morris, SF Charles Buggs, PF Joey King, C Bakary Konate.
That’s not to say that coach Richard Pitino won’t go deep into his bench – I think that’s the way this team needs to play this year, generally -- but my guess is that he’ll start the year with his returners and keep it that way until any of the newbies give him a strong reason not to.
Five things to peruse as you get amped for tonight:
- Plenty of material here to get you informed before tonight’s game. Check out my blog on all the unknowns this season will hinge upon. There are links there to my story on the key to this season – rebounding – and to a preview of both teams and all of my college basketball preview nuggets. Want more? Check out some notes from yesterday’s access, plus the re-play of my live chat talking all things Gophers hoops. Plus Randball gets in on the chatter, looking at some rankings around the country.
- Bakary Konate (foot) and Kevin Dorsey (suspension) are both expected to be available tonight, Pitino said yesterday. More details here.
- Word is Metro Transit is free for those heading to the basketball double-header happening at Williams Arena. Marlene Stollings’ womens team tips off vs. Wofford at 5:30.
- Everything counts, starting tonight for Minnesota’s four freshmen, who all figure to be critical. Who will remain steady as the competition improves? Who will show us something new? Not even Pitino knows the answer to that yet.
“They're all different, he said. “Where some guys may have the physical intangibles, but then the mentality part of it of understanding scouting, understanding plays, understanding operationally how it needs to be done, I think that's a big adjustment for everybody.
“You know, like all freshmen, one day it's Jordan Murphy. The next day it's Kevin Dorsey. The next day it's Duprees McBrayer. The next day it's Ahmad Gilbert as the best freshman. So getting them all to understand that, giving us about 90 percent, more good than bad is what you're looking for with freshmen. And they all have it. You know, when you have had a younger team, I guess that's kind of the reality of it. Now, can we string together more good days than bad?
- Now that we’re literally hours away from the official start of the season, I’ve got some predictions for how Minnesota and the rest of the league will end up. But my No. 1 prediction? That these rankings will change a lot before the start of the new year, and league play.
Here they are:
- Maryland – With Melo Trimble leading the way, a deep Terrapins team that is perhaps even tougher defensively will take control early.
- Purdue – Size matters in the Big Ten and the Boilermakers have it, with one of the best front lines in the nation.
- Michigan State –These Spartans are noticeably smaller than some teams in recent years, but they’ve got experience, talent and Tom Izzo.
- Indiana – The Hoosiers’ offense should be as efficient as ever and if the league’s worst defense a year ago can improve, watch out world.
- Wisconsin – The Badgers have to replace Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker but then, Bo Ryan has never finished below fourth in the league in 14 seasons.
- Michigan – Finally healthy, Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton are on a mission to prove last season’s down-year was an anomaly.
- Ohio State – The Buckeyes are young, but Thad Matta brings in another top-10 recruiting class that won’t allow much of a drop-off.
- Iowa – If the Hawkeyes can pick up where they left off at the end of last season, they could barrel up these rankings again. But replacing do-it-all man Aaron White will be no easy task.
- Illinois – Injuries, chemistry and off-court issues hurt the Illini a year ago and after two seasons away from the NCAA tournament there is much to prove.
- Northwestern – Can the Wildcats finally make it to the NCAA tournament? My thought was maybe …until Vic Law went down for the year.
- Minnesota – Youth and inexperience rule this Gophers team after watching four seniors with lots of playing time graduate.
- Nebraska – Shavon Shields won’t be able to do it all for the Huskers, but where the rest of the scoring will come from remains to be seen.
- Penn State – The Nittany Lions say goodbye to D.J. Newbill and will need to grow quickly.
- Rutgers – Consider it another “learning” season for Eddie Jordan’s bunch.