Minnesota tips off vs. Clemson tonight at 8 p.m. at Williams Arena. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2. Listen live on 1500-a.m.
Check out my feature on Joey King in today’s Star Tribune, here.
Previewing both teams, here.
Three things to watch in this year’s ACC/ Big Ten Challenge:
Jaron Blossomgame. The 6-7 Clemson big man looks primed to take the next leap after averaging 20.7 points a game in his last three games and confounding defenses with his combination of length, quickness and explosiveness around the rim. Blossomgame is nationally ranked in a number of different categories, including his 71.8 percent success rate on two-point shots, which lands 55th in the country. The Gophers didn’t have many solutions for Omaha attacking the basket last game, and will have a bigger test tonight. The Tigers aren’t the best three-point shooting team, so it would stand to reason that coach Richard Pitino would pack the paint a bit more in this matchup, but will it be enough?
Balanced offense. In Minnesota’s four wins, the Gophers have averaged almost ten three-pointers a game, a number that is skewed lower by the outlier game vs. Louisiana Monroe in which they hit just three. In the Gophers two losses? They’ve managed just four and six respectively. Minnesota hasn’t had the most balanced offense early, unable to scrap together much fight if its shot isn’t falling. But the Gophers will likely need to spread out their production vs. defensive stalwart Clemson, which has the fifth-ranked scoring defense, allowing just 56.2 points per game so far. If Minnesota stays one-dimensional in its attack, the Tigers will likely have no problem shutting it down early and it could be a long night for the Gophers.
The new old Nate Mason. After a couple of down games in Puerto Rico, sophomore guard Nate Mason looked like the player we had come to expect through the first few games of the season – picking the team up in big moments, hitting shots and creating plays for his teammates. Is Mason back? The Gophers certainly need him to hit a groove and stay there, especially if they want to steal one vs. Clemson tonight.
Center Bakary Konate was watching closely after terrorists attacked locations around Paris earlier this month, and then in a separate incident, a luxury hotel in Mali was attacked by terrorists.
Konate, who grew up in Mali but moved to Europe in high school, has friends in Paris and his parents are still in his home country. But although he knew second hand of some friends’ relatives that were injured, none of his immediate circle were hurt.
“That stuff right now is very scary,” he said. “France and then Mali. I’m blessed that god has protected all my family and me.”
After the Gophers missed five of eight free throws in the final 24 seconds of a 93-90 win over Omaha on Friday, senior forward Joey King said the team needed to practice from the line more in pressure situations. How do they simulate pressure situations in practice?
“Consequence,” King said. “[If you don’t make them you will] go spend some time with [strength and conditioning coach] Shaun Brown.”