Perhaps yesterday's brutal loss to Arkansas was good in some small way -- to help properly set expectations for a team that is still somewhat in transition.
The Gophesr don't have a bruising frontcourt. They don't have depth there, or great athleticism. They don't have a ton of experience.
All of that showed on Tuesday and will represent challenges for the Gophers likely to struggle to overcome all season.The Big Ten will be more lilke the last two days that it will be like anything Minnesota had faced prior this season.
Now, the Gophers should have an opportunity to at least leave the island on a positive note, with a matchup against DII host Chaminade in the battle to not take last place in the Maui Invitational.
But it's not quite that easy.
The probelm with playing Chaminade is two-fold:
*You don't get many points for dominating a DII team, even on the road
*What if they lose? After all, Chaminade has upset teams in this tournament in the past and the Arkansas blowout would look much tamer against a last-day loss today.
Five things to watch as the Gophers play their second consecutive morning game.
1. Mindset -- The Gophers looked exhausted and defeated after the loss to Arkansas. It's important for them to regroup today and not take Chaminade for granted. Coming in with a lack of focus -- as they did yesterday --- and starting slow could spell trouble. The Silverswords have played two ranked teams so far, and are probably welcoming the opportunity to catch Minnesota off-guard.
2. Mo Walker -- How long will it take to brush off the rust? The center wasn't very effective at all yesterday, recording one point, one rebound and not doing much in the way of defense. The frontcourt needs the boost that he can bring.
3. Christophe Varidel and Lee Bailey -- Each are capable of huge games. Each are capable of being corked. Can the Gophers contain both? Varidel exploded for 42 points against Baylor, but had just eight against Chaminade. Bailey was quiet in the first game, scoring seven points, but adding seven rebounds and five assists, but went off for 29 points against Gonzaga.
4. Malik Smith -- The senior guard has looked noticeably better in the last two games, getting more involved offensively and hitting some very clutch shots. The Gophers needed that spark, which dimmed in the second half, to continue yesterday and they need it again today.
5. Turnovers -- Here we go again? For the first five games, it looked as though the Gophers' ballhandling issues had been harnessed, but here they are again. In the last two games, Minnesota has turned the ball over 19 and 16 times, respectively. A lot of those were careless and unforced. It's not a good habit to get into -- can the Gophers start to right the ship again today?