Gophers men's hoops vs. Boston College
FULLER'S FOUR THINGS TO WATCH:
Robbins the rim protector – Nearly every transfer list this year had Liam Robbins among the best not only in the Big Ten but the country entering the 2020-21 season. It wasn't a matter of if the 7-foot Drake impact was going to make an impact when playing for the Gophers. It was a matter of if he would get a chance from the NCAA to play immediately with a waiver. Getting Robbins on the court this year was the first step. Now getting him to play to his potential is one of the biggest goals for Richard Pitino and his staff. Comparing Robbins to former All-American center Daniel Oturu wasn't fair. They have similar characteristics being able to protect the rim, stretch the floor and run the floor. But Robbins' best attribute right now that can translate from the mid-major level is shot blocking. He showed he could provide a defensive presence with five blocks in 27 minutes in last week's 76-67 win against North Dakota. Being able to be a consistent offensive threat (8.3 points on just 41.9 percent shooting) will take more time. But staying out of foul trouble should keep Robbins on the court long enough to make it tough for opposing teams to get comfortable in the paint. Robbins' minutes are down so far from 27.1 to 21.6 per game compared to last season, but it was a step in the right direction to avoid foul trouble in his last game.
Carr and Gach show – The Gophers offense right now is pretty much the Marcus Carr and Both Gach show. Carr was averaging close to 30 points per game through three games until he took a backseat to Gach in the win against North Dakota (Gach had 21 points and nine rebounds, while Carr had 17 points and nine assists). They might be one of the best backcourt tandems in the Big Ten. But the Gophers could be even more potent offensively if Gach and Carr can help their junior backcourt mate Gabe Kalscheur get his shot going this season. Kalscheur is averaging 10.5 points but shooting just 29 percent from the field (2-for-17 from three). The former DeLaSalle star shot 41 percent from three-point range as a freshman, but it dipped to 34 percent last season. Pitino has remained confident in his co-captain since Kalscheur makes up for his shooting slump with defense and foul shooting (19-for-19) so far this season.
Mitchell vs. Johnson – Former Shakopee star Steffon Mitchell will be playing against his home state program for the second time in his career. Mitchell had eight points and 13 rebounds in Boston College's 68-56 victory on the road two years ago. The 6-foot-8, 220-pound senior is averaging 7.8 points, while leading the Eagles with 8.0 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game. Gophers senior forward Brandon Johnson had his best game yet for the Gophers with 15 points, three steals and two blocks against North Dakota. The 6-8, 220-pound Johnson averaged 15.4 ppg and 8.1 rebounds at Western Michigan, but his minutes haven't been the same this year with foul trouble, down from 31.1 to 19.9 per game.
Rebounding margin – Minnesota's difficulty keeping opponents off the offensive glass was a sizable problem last season. And it nearly cost them in the last two games vs. Loyola Marymount and North Dakota. LMU manhandled the Gophers 43-30 on the boards, which included allowing 18 offensive rebounds. It was the most offensive rebounds in a game since Maryland grabbed 20 in a 74-73 win at the Barn on Feb. 26 last season. Pitino was 1-10 last season when outrebounded overall in the game. Their only win last season was when Carr also hit a game-winning shot with his three-pointer to beat Ohio State in Columbus. Boston College has the athleticism to make it tough for the Gophers on the glass Tuesday night.
Time: 6 p.m. CT, Tuesday. Where: Williams Arena. Line: Minnesota 7.5-point favorite. Series: Boston College leads the series 1-0 after winning the last meeting 68-56 on Nov. 26, 2018 in Massachusetts. TV: ESPNU. Online/Live video: WatchESPN. Radio: 100.3.
MINNESOTA GOPHERS (4-0)
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G – Marcus Carr 6-2 195 Jr. 26.5
G – Gabe Kalscheur 6-4 200 Jr. 10.5
G – Both Gach 6-6 185 Jr. 15.5
F – Brandon Johnson 6-8 220 Sr. 7.3
C – Liam Robbins 7-0 235 Jr. 8.5
Key reserves – Eric Curry, F/C, 6-9, Sr., 4.5 ppg; Tre' Williams, G, 6-5, So., 3.0 ppg; Jamal Mashburn Jr., G, 6-2, Fr., 2.5 ppg; Jarvis Omersa, F, 6-6, Jr., 3.0 ppg; Isaiah Ihnen, F, 6-9, So., 1.5 ppg.
Coach: Richard Pitino 149-122 (9th season overall)
Notable: Eric Curry played his first game since the 2018-19 season in the Nov. 25 season opener, finishing with four points, three rebounds and two assists in 14 minutes. Curry, who started the first two games, bounced back from his second major knee injury after missing last season following a torn right anterior cruciate ligament in preseason practice. The 6-foot-9 Memphis native is the last remaining player from the U's first NCAA tournament team under Pitino in 2017 … Sophomore guard Tre' Williams and freshman guard David Mutaf were sidelined in the opener vs. Green Bay. But Williams played in the next two games against Loyola Marymount. Mutaf has not made his debut this season.
BOSTON COLLEGE EAGLES (1-3)
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G – Wynston Tabbs 6-2 190 So. 15.5
G – Jay Heath 6-3 200 So. 11.3
F – Makai Ashton-Langford 6-3 185 Jr. 10.0
F – CJ Felder 6-7 230 So. 11.3
F – Steffon Mitchell 6-8 220 Sr. 7.8
Key reserves – James Karnik, F/C, 6-9, Sr., 7.0 ppg; DeMarr Langford, Jr., G, 6-5, Fr., 4.3 ppg; Luka Kraljevic, F, 6-11, Sr., 1.5 ppg
Coach: Jim Christian 318-265 (19th season)
Notable: All of the games so far this season for the Eagles were played at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, C.T. They opened the Empire Classic with a narrow loss to Villanova after leading by nine in the second half. After bouncing back to beat Rhode Island, Boston College tried to keep the momentum going in Bubbleville at the same venue. But the Eagles' comeback from a 13-point deficit fell short in a 97-93 loss against St. John's. Jim Christian's squad seemed to have nothing left after its fourth straight game at Mohegan in a 90-70 loss to Florida in the Legends Classic last Thursday
Fuller's score prediction (Picks record 4-0): Boston College 75, Gophers 70.