USC Upstate at Gophers
THREE THINGS TO WATCH:
JELLY DEBUT– If you weren’t a fan of jelly with your peanut butter, then that might change this season. Anybody watching Gophers games this year will be become jelly lovers pretty quick after watching freshman guard Isaiah Washington, who is the most popular incoming player possibly ever. The New York prep player of the year and co-founder of the Jelly Fam movement is a fan favorite across the country with this flashy finger rolls and dazzling one-on-one dribble moves and finishes. But Washington’s ability to penetrate and find open teammates actually could be his biggest asset. His first official game as a Gopher on Friday has been as highly anticipated as any first-year player in years. He likely won't disappoint.
MASON AND MURPHY– The M&M show will be fun to watch this season. Senior guard Nate Mason and junior forward Jordan Murphy were named team captains for the Gophers this year. Mason is a two-time captain and returns in the best shape of his career from a hip injury in last season’s NCAA tournament loss to Middle Tennessee. Murphy averaged 14 points and 11.5 rebounds in his final 11 games last season, which helped earn him All-Big Ten third team honors. Mason was the first Gopher to average 17 points a game in Big Ten play since Vincent Grier in 2005. But the Gophers were 11-0 when Murphy scored 14 points or more in conference play last season. Imagine what Minnesota could accomplish if they both combine to play their best basketball this season.
THREE-POINT SHOOTING– The Gophers were 11th in the Big Ten last season in three-point shooting percentage (34.2), which didn’t prevent them from having one of the best seasons in team history. That’s because Richard Pitino’s defense was stingy at allowing opponents to shoot a high percentage from beyond the arc (30.9). But Creighton, Concordia-St. Paul and Wisconsin-Green Bay shot in three exhibition games/scrimmages 38 percent from three-point range in three games, while Minnesota shot just 30.9. That can’t be a trend this season or there will be way too many close games.
Time: 7 p.m. CT, Friday. Where: Williams Arena. Line: None. Series: First meeting. Minnesota is 6-0 vs. the Atlantic Sun Conference. TV: None. Online/Live video: BTN Plus Radio: KFAN 100.3-FM.
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G-Nate Mason 6-2 Sr. 15.5
G-Dupree McBrayer 6-5 Jr. 10.9
G-Amir Coffey 6-8 So. 12.1
F-Jordan Murphy 6-6 Jr. 11.2
C-Reggie Lynch 6-10 Sr. 8.4
Key reserves– Isaiah Washington, G, 6-1, Fr.; Davonte Fitzgerald, F, 6-8, Jr.; Bakary Konate, C, 6-11, Sr., 1.7 ppg; Michael Hurt, F, 6-7, So., 0.7 ppg; Jamir Harris, G, 6-1, Fr.
Coach: Richard Pitino 93-75 (6th season)
South Carolina Upstate (0-0)
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G-Jure Span 6-4 Jr. 3.5
G-Mike Cunningham 6-0 Jr. 13.4
G-Malik Moore 6-6 Jr. 10.9
F-Ramel Thompkins 6-7 Sr. 8.2
F-Carson Smith 6-6 Sr. 1.9
Key reserves–Deion Holmes, G, 6-3, Jr., 8.9 ppg; Blake Edwards, G, 6-0, So., 1.8 ppg; Avery Diggs, C, 6-10, Fr.; Jacob Schulte, F, 6-7, Jr.; Yeskin Walker-Williams, F, 6-4, Fr.
Coach: Kyle Perry 0-0 (1st season)
Fuller’s prediction (0-0 picks record): Gophers 88, USC Upstate 72. The Gophers open their fifth season under Richard Pitino with probably their best team in 20 years. Fans will be treated to a show Friday night with Washington’s debut and an entire starting five back from last season’s 24-win NCAA tournament team, including Minnesotans Amir Coffey and Reggie Lynch. Washington will get the crowd fired up early. Murphy will get his double-double. Coffey will lead the team in scoring like he did in the exhibition game against Green Bay last Sunday. Minnesota will win big, but it also needs to play really well in the second half to take some momentum into Monday’s first big test at Providence.