Gophers men’s basketball at Boston College

THREE THINGS TO WATCH:

BIG TIME BOWMAN – For the second straight game, the Gophers will be facing an opposing guard projected to be selected in the 2019 NBA Draft (Washington guard Matisse Thybulle last week). You can’t put too much stock into early mock drafts, but they do give you an indication of how much attention certain players are getting from pro scouts. Boston College’s Ky Bowman is the top scoring guard and No. 2 scorer overall in the ACC at 21.8 points per game (only Duke’s R.J. Barrett ranks higher overall). It’s Bowman’s team this year after playing alongside eventual first round NBA draft pick Jerome Robinson last season. Bowman, though, was the star who shined the brightest when Boston College upset No. 1 Duke 89-84 last season with his near triple-double of 30 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Wow. Think of a slightly taller and lankier version (6-foot-1, 188) of Purdue’s All-American guard Carsen Edwards. That’s the best way to describe what the Gophers are up against Monday night, trying to slow down the high-scoring and explosive Bowman, who already has a 38-point game this season, which included 24 points in the first half last week against Wyoming. The other member of BC's three-headed monster backcourt last season was Jordan Chatham, who is averaging 14.4 points as a senior this season. Chatham had 20 points in a win against Loyola-Chicago last week. Minnesota has no real defensive-stopper on the perimeter, so 6-8 Amir Coffey, 6-5 Dupree McBrayer and 6-4 Gabe Kalscheur will try to disrupt Bowman with their length.

DRY SPELLS – The Gophers remained undefeated and improved their record to 5-0 with three victories against Texas A&M, Santa Clara and Washington in last week’s Vancouver Showcase. But it certainly wasn’t done pretty on offense, especially in the first half of the last two games. Minnesota shot an abysmal 29.5 percent (18-for-61 combined) before halftime against Santa Clara and Washington. Luckily, Richard Pitino’s team was able to rely on defense and Kalscheur’s three-point shooting to stay in the game on both nights. Overall, the Gophers shot just 38.5 percent (67-for-174) from the field in Vancouver. Take away Kalscheur’s lights-out performance against Santa Clara (25 points on 7-for-12 from three) and game-winner with 2.1 seconds left against Washington, Pitino probably leaves with a 1-2 record instead of 3-0 across the Canadian border. So other Gophers will likely have to pick up the slack offensively Monday night when the Eagles game plan to shut down the sharp-shooting freshman Kalscheur. McBrayer has really struggled on offense since he hit five three-pointers in the season opener against Omaha. The senior guard is shooting just 10-for-36 (27.8 percent) from the field and 3-for-17 from beyond the arc (17.6 percent) in the last four games. Sophomore Isaiah Washington also seems due for a solid shooting night, because he’s been cold so far this year (21.2 percent on field goals and 14.3 percent from three-point range).

RESTLESS ROTATION – Have you figured out Pitino’s rotation yet this season? No. Well, that’s probably because he’s still trying to find the best group himself. The starting lineup hasn’t changed in five games. Why should it when the Gophers are undefeated. They’ve stuck with Coffey, McBrayer, Kalscheur, Jordan Murphy and Daniel Oturu to start the game, but there has been little consistency with the rotation after that. Sometimes Matz Stockman replaces Oturu first. Other times Washington comes in for Kalscheur. You might not see Brock Stull play at all one game, but the next he’ll be relied on for an offensive spark. The same goes for Jarvis Omersa when the Gophers are looking for some energy plays. Foul trouble has caused a lot of mixing and matching with starters and reserves playing in different lineups together, so chemistry has been a big problem, especially offensively. Also, it’s hard to figure out why Michael Hurt is averaging just 6.6 minutes this season. Hurt, a junior forward from Rochester, Minn., seemed to be turning the corner as a reliable player off the bench last season when he averaged 19 minutes per game. He played 17 minutes in the opener against Omaha, but has 16 minutes combined in the last four games.

GAME INFO

Time: 8 p.m. CT, Monday. Where: Conte Forum. Line: Even Series: First meeting between the programs. TV: ESPN2. Online/Live video: WatchESPN Radio: 100.3 FM.

PROJECTED STARTERS

MINNESOTA GOPHERS (5-0)

Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG 

G- Amir Coffey 6-8 Jr. 14.4

G- Dupree McBrayer 6-5 Sr. 11.4

G- Gabe Kalscheur 6-4 Fr. 13.8

F- Jordan Murphy 6-7 Sr. 14.0

C- Daniel Oturu 6-10 Fr. 9.0

Key reserves– Isaiah Washington, G, 6-1, So., 4.2 ppg; Michael Hurt, F, 6-7, Jr., 2.1 ppg; Brock Stull, G, 6-4, Sr., 3.5 ppg; Matz Stockman, C, 7-0, Sr., 5.8 ppg; Jarvis Omersa, F, 6-7, Fr., 2.4 ppg.

Coach: Richard Pitino 92-78 (6th season)  

Notable: Redshirt sophomore forward/center Eric Curry, who missed last season with torn ligaments and meniscus in his left knee, was out for four-to-six weeks after knee surgery before the season. Curry averaged 5.5 points and 5.2 rebounds in 19.9 minutes per game on the U’s NCAA tournament team in 2017. The 6-foot-9 Memphis native started in the Oct. 20 scrimmage at Creighton, but he was sidelined again after an MRI revealed cartilage damage with his previously injured left knee swelling. Curry is expected to miss at least the first six games of the 2018-19 season.

BOSTON COLLEGE EAGLES (4-1) 

Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG

G-Ky Bowman 6-1 Sr. 21.8

G-Wynston Tabbs 6-2 Fr. 11.4

G-Jordan Chatman 6-5 Sr. 14.4

F-Steffon Mitchell 6-8 So 7.2.

C-JohnCarlos Reyes 6-10 Jr. 4.3

Key reserves– Jarius Hamilton, F, 6-8, Fr., 5.6 ppg; Chris Herren Jr., G, 6-3, Fr., 2.8 ppg; Nik Popovic, C, 6-11, Jr., 10.0 ppg.

Coach: Jim Christian 294-238 (13th season)  

Notable: Eagles coach Jim Christian was recruited by Pitino’s Hall of Fame father, Rick, to Boston University where he played two seasons from 1983-85 before transferring to Rhode Island. Christian, who hasn’t reached the NCAA tournament since 2007-08 at Kent State, had three straight losing seasons to start his tenure at Boston College before a 19-win, NIT-bid season in 2017-18 … Sophomore forward Steffon Mitchell, a former Shakopee High School standout, leads Boston College with 8.8 rebounds per game. Mitchell went to Sunrise Christian Academy (Kan.) after his senior year at Shakopee when he finished as the school’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder in 2016. He was a member of the Minnesota all-state first team with current Gopher juniors Amir Coffey and Michael Hurt.

Fuller’s predictionGophers 75, Boston College 73. The Gophers are playing their fourth high major opponent in six games, but Pitino said this will be the biggest challenge yet playing a true road game for the first time. The environment at the Vancouver Showcase was definitely pro-Gophers with at least 70 fans making the trip from the Twin Cities. How will the younger players and newcomers respond when Boston College makes a run with the home crowd cheering it on? Pitino’s team overcoming some early runs to take the lead in the first half will be a key to victory. Upperclassmen like McBrayer, Coffey, Murphy, Stockman and even Stull (if he plays meaningful minutes) might be able to give the Gophers some production down the stretch with their experience to pull out possibly the most important game in nonconference play for the U’s NCAA tournament hopes.

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