Asking the Gophers after the win over Southwest Baptist, the players said they were mostly satisfied with what they accomplished in two preseason games.
They won two (blowouts); no one got hurt; they learned a few lessons.
And I’ll mostly agree with that. The team showed some potential and looked pretty good, at times. On the flip side of that, there are a couple of glaring weaknesses that need to be quickly tended to.
Let’s go through it all:
- We’ve expected it, and tonight the Gophers put their athleticism on display with a barrage of dunks and high-flying acrobatics, including a dunk by Trevor Mbakwe, his first of the season.
- Joe Coleman has been looking fantastic around the basket in these first couple games. He’s converting, the aggressiveness is there, he’s getting to the free throw line and making his shots and he’s doing some of the little things that were missing from his game last year. It’s too early to make too much of his gains, but it’s clear the sophomore is an improved player from a year ago.
- Rodney Williams has had a nice couple of games as well, especially tonight, when he finished with 13 points and eight rebounds. It’s a good sign of continuance after all the improvement we saw from him in the postseason.
- Overall, the rebounding was much better, particularly in the second half. At halftime, the Gophers had a rebounding advantage of just 18-14 – despite the fact that SWB’s big men liked to play out on the perimeter. But heading into the second half the Gophers picked it up. Everyone except Kendall Shell and Chris Halvorson got at least two rebounds and the team finished with 47.
- The Gophers have been fantastic in the paint. But where is the same effort mid-range and from the three-point range? I get that it was just “working” in the two exhibitions. But isn’t preseason the time where a team tests out where it is in a number of aspects? Right now, we can only assume what we see from the three-point numbers, which aren’t pretty.
- The Gophers got to the line some tonight, but then only made 11 of 16 shots.
- Yes, the 3-pointers went down substantially as the game wore on, but some of that was because the Bearcats simply stopped making them. Ten 3-pointers against a more balanced offense could be deadly.
- Hold on to the ball! The Gophers had 17 turnovers on Monday after amassing 14 in the previous game. Not a great way to start of the season and brings back dangerous memories of a year ago, when the Gophers often turn-turn-turned their way over to a loss.
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Through five games, Nebraska Omaha is playing at the third fastest pace in Division I college basketball. (And one of the Mavericks top players is a former Chaska star.)
The Gophers have collected 48 fouls in the last two games, and foul trouble contributed to Minnesota’s 81-68 loss to Texas Tech on Sunday.
The question now is whether Minnesota can move past a bad long weekend and pick up some steam through the rest of this month and next – or whether a not-so-easy slate between now and New Year's will put the Gophers on the path toward the basement.
The Gophers are young and inexperienced and while the future may be bright, the present is tenuous, at best.