Tonight's matchup between Stephen F. Austin and Minnesota features two tough, athletic defenses.

The Lumberjacks lost three starters from last season's team, including former conference players of the year Matt Kingsley and Josh Alexander, but veteran guards Eric Bell and Eddie Williams return.

But their defense was ridiculous a year ago. They held teams to 56.1 points per game, the No. 1 scoring defense in the Southland Conference.

Still, this is basically a brand new team for Danny Kasper, who has eight newcomers.

For the Gophers, Lawrence Westbrook and Devoe Joseph are making a strong-case for a three-guard lineup. The duo helped the Gophers outscore Tennessee Tech 50-28 in the second half of an 87-50 victory in the season-opener Friday.

I really think Damian Johnson has a chance to be the Big Ten's most versatile player, after Ohio State's Evan Turner. He's really developed.

Stephen F. Austin forced 21 turnovers and only had six of its own in a first round loss against Syracuse in last season's NCAA tournament. The Gophers struggled with turnovers a year ago. And they still get sloppy at times with ballhandling. If the Lumberjacks can take care of the ball and force turnovers, they might have a shot at an upset. 

But Minnesota shoud be too big, strong and athletic to let that happen against a team with a pair of 6-8 post players. Johnson, Rodney Williams, Paul Carter and the Twin Towers should/will attack the glass, get points and draw fouls.

Prediction: Minnesota 75, Stephen F. Austin 58




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