Minnesota takes on Louisville at 6:30 CT in a game I'm sure you haven't heard about. It's happening in Puerto Rico -- Aguadilla, to be specific -- at the USCG Borinquen station, and it's happening in an active airplane hangar that was converted into a basketball venue. A court was brought in, bleachers, hoops, all the good stuff, just for today. Watching will be a handful of fans, about 160 friends and family of the coaching staffs and (mostly) members of the Coast Guard. There is no air conditioning, and as it's essentially a big concrete box, this is slightly terrifying. Wish us all luck. I'm sure you readers feel very sorry for all of us, especially myself. I'll try to stay poised.
The game will be broadcast on ESPN. 1500 will also have it. I will be tweeting, as long as my fingers aren't slipping helplessly off my keyboard due to the humidity (in far more relevant news, if my keyboard is a problem the court most definitely will be a problem).
All in all, this should be pretty cool. It's not everyday that I get to cover a game in such a unique location and in such a unique venue. As the Pitino's have repeated all week, it should be a once-in-a-lifetime event. Giddy up.
Five things to watch tonight:
1. Montrezl Harrell: If the Louisville big man gets started early, it could be a long night for Minnesota. Whether the Gophers' frontcourt of Elliott Eliason and Mo Walker can contain Harrell -- and whether the guards can avoid their offerings being swatted away like flies hovering over a Puerto Rican pork rib -- will go a long way in determining the outcome.
2. Carlos Morris: Earlier this week, Pitino said the JUCO transfer is the type of player who excels his game in the spotlight. The wing -- who finished with 23 points in the Gophers' exhibition win over Minnesota Duluth last week -- did that to a degree at Iowa State, totaling 22 points in that one. But that scrimmage, at the beginning of the month, was private and lacked any crowd. This game will be in a packed venue and broadcast on ESPN. And we've only been talking about the matchup for about six months. Can Morris still perform under the pressure?
3. The fitness level of both teams: After two and a half days under the Puerto Rican sun, how will the players hold up? Both teams practiced in a heated gym in the week leading up to this trip. Now, that preparation -- along with the players' hydration levels -- will be tested. On Tuesday, Louisville coach Rick Pitino pointed out that Minnesota's depth advantage could be a significant one, given the circumstances. And he's right -- as long as the depth is used as an asset, and not a necessity.
4. Louisville's press: The elder Pitino's bunch is always solid defensively -- the Cardinals were ranked No. 4 in the nation in defensive efficiency last year, per kenpom.com -- and the press can be stifling. That could be a concern for the Gophers, who are still getting their sea legs offensively and who never quite tamed the turnover problem that plagued them a year ago. Remember how ugly things got against Iowa's press in Iowa City last year? Minnesota needs to avoid a repeat of that massacre.
5. The Dres: Seniors Andre Hollins and DeAndre Mathieu that is. After a pair of unimpressive performances in the team's intrasquad scrimmage, both were steady, but not ablaze, in last week's exhibition game. Against Minnesota Duluth, the balanced offensive production throughout the roster was more than plenty to cruise past the Division II competition. Against Louisville, at one of them will probably need to have a big game.