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The 76 Classic Gophers vs. Butler - Official Game Thread

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I apologize for the lack of an actual preview but this will have to do.

This is the best game of the non-conference schedule and arguably this is the championship game of the 76 Classic. Butler is very good and this game will be a real test for the Gophers. Before we get too far, let's take a look at the Tempo-Free Stats.

Butler Minnesota
Pnts / Poss 1.107 0.990
Def Pts / Poss 0.907 0.730
TO % 16.6% 16.7%
Def Reb % 76.2% 73.0%
Off Reb % 30.4% 33.0%
eFG% 46.5% 57.3%
Def eFG% 47.4% 38.9%

It is really early in the season so these numbers can be a bit misleading, but the thing about tempo-free stats is that they are pretty true even at this point in the season.

The Bulldogs return 7 of their top 9 players from a year ago where they earned a #8 seed in the NCAA Tournament and were narrowly defeated by LSU in the first round. In a nutshell they score, they rebound, they don't turn the ball over and they are deep. The Gophers are a similar team but we are lacking a scoring punch like the Bulldogs have in Gordon Hayward.

Likely Starting Line-ups

Butler

F- Matt Howard (9.7 ppg and 7.7 rpg)
F- Gordon Hayward (15.3 and 8.0)
G- Willie Veasley (9.7 and 4.3)
G- Shawn Vanzant (3.7 and 2.0)
G- Shelvin Mack (13.0 and 5.0 apg)

Minnesota

C- Ralph Sampson III
F- Paul Carter
F- Damian Johnson
G- Lawrence Westbrook
G- Al Nolen

There is a good chance that we will see Rodney Williams get the start and Paul Carter coming off the bench. That would make for good matchups for the Gophers but we'll see if Tubby is willing to start a freshman this early in the season.

I am assuming that Johnson will defend Hayward and Nolen will guard Mack. This is one of those games where we are fortunate to have our two best defenders able to matchup with their two best scorers. These are really key match-ups and if they play out this way both should be a lot of fun to watch.

Keys to the game

  1. REBOUND - statistically the Bulldogs are not great offensive rebounders, so let's keep it that way. This is always a key for me but we need to get more shots and we need to end their possessions with a rebound. Don't let Hayward and Howard hit their rebounding averages.
  2. Keep it low scoring - I really like our defense, if this game turns into a score-fest we will lose as they are better offensively. We can slow them down with our team defense and athleticism on the wing.
  3. Execute on offense - we will not get nearly as many fast-break opportunities so we will have to execute offensively to get some good shots.

This should be a great game and a great test for the Gophers.