Nebraska Omaha at Gophers

THREE THINGS TO WATCH:

NEWCOMERS IMPACT –. Gophers fans will get to see five newcomers make their debut Tuesday, including Minnesotans Daniel Oturu, Gabe Kalscheur and Jarvis Omersa. Oturu and Kalscheur are expected to be in the starting lineup. Seniors Matz Stockman and Brock Stull, who are transfers from Louisville and Wisconsin-Milwaukee, will be among the first players off the bench against Nebraska Omaha. Oturu has been arguably the team’s most impressive player through two scrimmages and the lone exhibition game. The Cretin-Derham Hall product had 10 points, six rebounds and three blocks in a secret scrimmage at Creighton, 13 points, nine rebounds and four blocks in the Maroon and Gold scrimmage and 17 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks in the Duluth exhibition win Thursday night. None of that counts, though, so we’ll see if he can match that output against better competition and playing starter minutes. Kalscheur led the Gophers in scoring with 15 points against Creighton and had 12 points against Duluth. What was surprising about those two outings is the former DeLaSalle star finished a combined 2-for-8 from three-point range, but he still managed to produce offensively by shooting 9-for-10 from the foul line and dishing about six assists with just one turnover. You can see why Richard Pitino trusts Kalscheur on the floor as much as players with more experience. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh transfer Marcus Carr, the NCAA hasn’t granted his waiver yet, so he won’t be eligible to play Tuesday. Carr could be sitting out this year with Vanderbilt transfer Payton Willis.

MR. BASKETBALL RETURNS – Nebraska Omaha redshirt junior guard JT Gibson was a freshman on the team that nearly pulled off the upset in a 93-90 loss at the Barn in 2015-16. Gibson, who won Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball award in 2015, led Champlin Park to the Class 4A state title game. His first season with the Mavericks got off to a strong start, which including an 11-point performance at Minnesota, but Gibson’s season ended prematurely with surgery on his shooting arm. The 6-foot-3 Minneapolis native received a medical redshirt after playing just eight games.  Gibson had a breakout season averaging 10.2 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists with 12 starts in 2017-18 Gibson and Gophers junior Amir Coffey have known each other since playing youth basketball together in grade school. 

MOTIVATED MURPHY – All-Big Ten forward Jordan Murphy’s name was mentioned among national player of the year candidates this week with the Naismith Award and John Wooden Award preseason top 50 watch lists. Murphy was leading the Big Ten in scoring and rebounding during an early stretch last year, but his stats slid a bit once the Gophers suffered the loss of three starters to injury and off-court issues. Still, Murphy averaged 16.8 points and a Big-Ten best 11.3 rebounds (the second highest rebounding average in the conference in more than a decade). He led the nation with 24 double-doubles, but Murphy did not crack the top 25 of any college basketball player ranking in the preseason. Some rankings even had him outside of the top 60!? Why? Minnesota's losing record likely contributed to the disrespect. Well, Murphy should enter his senior year with a chip on his shoulder trying to prove he’s worthy of All-American consideration. Not just a one-man show, Minnesota’s upgraded frontcourt should help Murphy be even better this season.

GAME INFO

Time: 7 p.m. CT, Tuesday. Where: Williams Arena. Line: plus-14. Series:  Minnesota leads 2-0; Minnesota won 93-90 in the last meeting on Nov. 27, 2015. TV: None. Online/Live video: BTN Plus Radio: 100.3 FM.

PROJECTED STARTERS

MINNESOTA (15-17 last season)

Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG (last season)

G- Amir Coffey 6-8 Jr. 14.0

G- Dupree McBrayer 6-5 Sr. 9.4

G- Gabe Kalscheur 6-4 Fr.

F- Jordan Murphy 6-7 Sr. 16.8

C- Daniel Oturu 6-10 Fr.

Key reserves– Isaiah Washington, G, 6-1, So., 8.7 ppg; Michael Hurt, F, 6-7, Jr., 3.2 ppg; Brock Stull, G, 6-4, Sr., 13.4 ppg (Wisconsin-Milwaukee); Matz Stockman, C, 7-0, Sr.; Jarvis Omersa, F, 6-7, Fr.

Coach: Richard Pitino 90-78 (6th season)  

Notable: Redshirt sophomore forward/center Eric Curry, who missed last season with torn ligaments and meniscus in his left knee, is out for four-to-six weeks after knee surgery Monday. 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 knee swelling last weekend. Curry is expected to miss at least the first six games of the 2018-19 season.

NEBRASKA OMAHA (9-22 last season) 

Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG

G-KJ Robinson 6-0 Jr. 9.6

G-JT Gibson 6-3 Jr. 10.2

G-Zach Jackson 6-5 Sr. 17.6

F-Mitch Hahn 6-8 Sr. 11.7

F-Matt Pile 6-8 So. 6.0

Key reserves–Ayo Akinwole, G, 6-0, So., 2.6 ppg; Brett Barney, C, 6-9, Jr.; Wanjang Tut, F, 6-8, RS-Fr.; Zach Thornbill, G, 6-4, RS-Fr.; Eli Duplechan, G, 5-11, So.

Coach: Derrin Hansen 206-188 (14th season)  

Notable: The Mavericks had one of the toughest nonconference schedules for any mid-major program last season with Oklahoma, Louisville, Washington and Kansas. All ended in losses, but you can bet they won’t be intimidated coming to play at the Barn tonight. Omaha’s last victory against a Big Ten opponent wasn’t that long ago when it upset Iowa 98-89 on the road in 2016. Look for this squad to look more like that season than the nine-win team from a year ago. Zach Jackson, Mitch Hahn and Gibson all played in that game against the Hawkeyes. Jackson scored a team-high 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds, while Hahn had 15 points and five rebounds off the bench in Iowa City two years ago.  

Fuller’s predictionGophers 80, Nebraska Omaha 69.  The Gophers’ offense is much further ahead than their defense at this point, but they showed at least the potential to be disruptive with their length in the 109-53 exhibition win last week against Minnesota Duluth. Minnesota recorded 10 blocks and 10 steals. Amir Coffey and Murphy are one of the top scoring inside-outside tandems in the Big Ten, but they didn’t play much against Duluth to rest for the opener. McBrayer returned after missing time away from the team for a family emergency and looked sharp with 11 first-half points. Oturu and Kalscheur were efficient offensively. Now that Oturu is replacing Curry in the starting lineup it will be up to Pitino to establish some scoring off the bench. That could definitely be Isaiah Washington, who had a team-high 17 points on 7-for-8 shooting in a sixth-man role in the exhibition. What will we see from Jelly Fam tonight if he’s called on to have another big contribution?

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