Please check out my story on the manifestation of the new NCAA fouling rules, felt around the country.
Tonight’s game will tip off at 8 p.m. Watch on Big Ten Network. Listen on 1500-a.m.
The Gophers might be playing a no-name opponent, heading into another long break for the holidays, but the style that Nebraska – Omaha brings to Williams Arena on Friday night could bring an interesting new challenge for Minnesota.
Comparatively, the pace at which the Mavericks play makes the Gophers look incredibly slow.
After finishing last season at No. 1 in the nation in tempo, Nebraska-Omaha lands at No. 8 while averaging 84.5 points a game. Minnesota, meanwhile, has talked about playing an up-tempo style, but is currently ranked just 261st in the country in that regard.
“They are one of the best offensive teams we will have played thus far,” Minnesota coach Richard Pitino said. “They shoot quick. They probably average possessions, that last 14, 15 seconds. Very, very dangerous game. They were up on Iowa the whole game. They beat Nevada on the road, they lost at the buzzer to UNLV, at UNLV. So this is going to be a very tough test, defensively, for us.
“This team has been battle-tested. This team is not going to be, by any means, scared of us, they’re going to come in here expecting to win.”
Center Elliott Eliason said the Mavericks’ style will pose “some unique challenges,” and test the conditioning of the 2013-14 as well as their defense, which has been really good at times and really lax at others.
How will Minnesota’s press fare against Nebraska-Omaha’s super quick guards and high-flying offense? Can the Gophers keep the Mavericks in front of them or will Pitino be forced to switch to a 2-3 zone early?
“You’ve got to run back," Eliason said. "You can’t sit around if you don’t get the rebound on the offensive glass, you can’t swat around at it, trying to steal it, you’ve got to run back, sprint back in the paint. Because they’re coming, they’re coming right at you. And even if you make a shot, you’ve got to get back … you’re the last line of defense. So if they get by your guards, it ends up being on you to stop it at the rim.”
Other notes on Nebraska-Omaha:
- The Mavericks have four players from Minnesota: 6-8 junior forward Mike Rostampour (West St. Paul), sophomore starting guard Marcus Tyus (Ramsey), 6-8 junior forward Jake White (Chaska) and 6-8 sophomore forward Simon Krych. White is currently redshirting after transferring from Wichita State. The Gophers have just one player from Minnesota in transfer Joey King. “I’m sure for them, they’re excited about it,” Pitino said. “For us, Joey King probably the only one who knows all those guys.”
- Omaha is on a five-game win streak – the longest since 2010-11 -- and received votes in the CollegeInsider.com mid-major poll released this week for the first time in school history.
- The Mavericks are 13th best in the nation in free-throw shooting, with a .766 team percentage. Center John Karhoff is currently making 90.2 percent of his free throws.
- Omaha is 6-1 when scoring 80 points or more this season.