Minnesota plays at Nebraska tonight at 7:30 p.m. CT. Watch on Big Ten Network or listen live on 1500-a.m.
Read: Can the Gophers, like last season's Nebraska, turn around a bad start and make the NCAA tournament? Minnesota is faced with a much different conference climate and isn't helped by its weak schedule.
Still waiting for Gaston
For several games now, coach Richard Pitino has been threatening to play international power forward Gaston Diedhiou. Still, it hasn't happened.
Saturday, the coach said the reason for the Senegal native's absence in the win over Rutgers is a new leg injury.
In Friday's practice, Diedhiou tweaked his Iliotibial band, Pitino said, and a day later, it hadn't improved much. The big man hobbled through warmups and trainer Ben Feld recommended he be held out once more.
At this point, only 12 regular-season games remain. Is Pitino starting to think about redshirting Diedhiou to avoid wasting most of a year?
The coach still isn't ruling the possibility out, but he still sounds inclined to play Diedhiou if at all possible. Currently, Minnesota ranks second to last in the league in defensive rebounds. Starting power forward Joey King and backup Charles Buggs are both averaging exactly 1.7 boards in conference play.
Considering the Gophers' other limitations, the deficit on the glass is a big concern. Diedhiou would offer a bigger, bulkier and more physical presence in the paint than either of the other two options, and his rebounding ceiling is a lot greater as well.
"Part of our rebounding problem is, it's not that it's a lack of effort from Joey and Buggs," Pitino said "They're just not real big guys and they're not naturally great rebounders, so we've got to get [Diedhiou] rolling too."
What's more, the coach said he isn't sure a redshirt would be particularly helpful for Diedhiou, a 21-year-old freshman.
"He's old," Pitino said. "So how beneficial is it going to be for a 25, 26-year-old [to have an extra year]? ... I don't have an answer to the question, to be honest, it's just hard right now. But we've got to prepare him to be able to play [at Nebraska] and then we'll see."
On the slow track
Bakary Konate played in his first game since the Big Ten opener at Purdue on Saturday when Pitino inserted the freshman center in the first half -- ahead of senior backup center Elliott Eliason -- and played him a total of 17 minutes in the win over Rutgers. Konate connected on a jumper on his only field goal attempt, and had one rebound, one assist and three fouls.
Although the Mali native's opportunities have been limited, Pitino said he's satisfied with Konate's development thus far.
"We knew he'd be raw bringing him in," Pitino said. "I think that's just the reality of the situation, we're just going to have to develop big guys. With Bakary it's almost like less is more. The less mistakes he makes, the more he'll play. And I don't think he made a whole lot of mistakes last game except for fouling -- that was probably the biggest issue and he's got to get better at that, he fouls a lot. He made a nice little pick-and-pop jumpshot. He got fouled a lot too, because he's such a big target in the post. I think he's on schedule with where we thought he'd be."
Duck, duck, Goose
Elliason, meanwhile, played only four minutes in Saturday's victory, his fewest in Big Ten play.
Pitino said the demotion, at least for one game, was due partly to Eliason's struggles (just one point and four rebounds in the previous two games and has a 42.4 free-throw percentage on the year) and partly to his dedication to developing Konate on the fly. The latter will likely be Minnesota's starting center next season with both Eliason and starter Mo Walker graduating.
"I thought Elliott had a great attitude on the bench," Pitino said. "Doesn't mean he's not going to play anymore. Every guy is valuable."