Has a 2-1 record to start the Big Ten ever looked so concerning?
Read my story on tonight's 68-65 win here.
Yes, the Gophers were able to pull out wins against Purdue at home and Penn State on the road -- both games they absolutely should take -- and have shown some good things along the way.
But even in the last two wins, it's the struggles that have been highlighted.
Minnesota barely escaped with either victory despite a very strong stretch of play at some point in the game. They've lacked consistency from their leaders (with the exception of Elliott Eliason, who has unexpectedly been fantastic). They've been sloppy. They've played not to lose.
On Wednesday, the Gophers led Penn State by as many as ten points, but probably could have stretched that further had they executed a little better. Then, after holding the Nittany Lions without a basket for nearly seven minutes, the Gophers just fell apart. They turned the ball over right and left. Suddenly their defense was porous, with Penn State easily slipping past the zone or the press. And for the first half especially, Austin Hollins and DeAndre Mathieu were nearly absent, and Andre Hollins wasn't much better. Certainly, Tim Frazier and Ross Travis were incredibly good tonight, but Minnesota still had plenty of opportunities.
Minnesota was able to win by Penn State falling short in the final minutes -- not making free throws, giving up the ball, shooting a terrible percentage all game (36.7 percent from the field). But none of that will work against better teams, and the Gophers have a plethora of them coming up, with the following four-game stretch looking frightening: at Michigan State, against Ohio State, at Iowa, against Wisconsin.
Certainly, the Gophers have a lot of new contributors, and are playing a new style under a new coach. There is ample opportunity to grow and shore up some of the sloppiness we've seen early. But Minnesota can never afford to get off-games from Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins, the veterans of the team.
The rest of the team needs to grow up fast or this season could get ugly.