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Fairfield Stags Travel to The Barn to Face the Gophers - OPEN THREAD

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For the third game in a row I look at the opponent and think this is a certain win. Then I actually do a little research on the opponent and realize that this team scares me a little bit. Fairfield is very experienced and they have some very talented guys on their roster. Do not take this team lightly.

Game Time: 6:00
TV: Big Ten Network (YAY!)

Pos Minnesota (2-0) Pnt/Gm Pnt/Gm Fairfield (1-1) Pos
PG Andre Hollins 5.5 12.0 Derek Needham G
G Austin Hollins 9.0 4.0 Desmond Wade
G
F Rodney Williams 6.5 17.0 Maurice Barrow F
F Trevor Mbakwe 17.0 20.5 Rakim Sanders G/F
C Ralph Sampson III 9.0 14.5 Ryan Olander C
Bench Maverick Ahanmisi 4.0 1.5 Jamel Fields Bench
Bench Chip Armelin 6.5 1.0 Colin Nickerson Bench
Bench Joe Coleman 3.0
0.5 Sean Crawford Bench

Here is what you should know about the Fair Field Stags.

  • They are the defending regular season champs of the MAAC but lost to St. Peter's in the conference tournament.
  • The Stags were one of the best defensive teams last year finishing second nationally in points allowed.
    They return four starters, add two transfers who sat out last year due to NCAA rules and get back Sean Crawford who missed last season due to injury.
  • Fairfield was pegged as the preseason #2 team in the MAAC behind Iona with their point guard and 7-foot center as members of the 1st team preseason all-MAAC team. But they may not even be the Stags' two best players.
  • Rakim Sanders also earned 2nd team preseason honors, the Boston College transfer is the team's offensive focal point.
  • This team is talented and is potentially an NCAA Tournament team, albeit a low-seeded one if they happen to earn the MAAC automatic bid.
  • Currently #17 in the mid-major top 25.

Derek Needham and Ryan Olander are the returning anchors of what was a 25-win team last year who combined to average 24.5 ppg. Rakim Sanders is a 1,000 point scorer from Boston College who transferred to Fairfield for his senior season and should add an offensive kick to the Stags. Oh and sophomore, Maurice Barrow just happens to be the team's second leading scorer. This team relies heavily on a "starting six" with Jamel Fields getting a lot of minutes off the bench but nobody else earning more than 10 min per game.

I think the Gopher's schedule is getting a little tougher. Fairfield might be the best non-BCS non-conference opponent we face this year. They may even be better than USC or Virginia Tech, but I'll reserve that judgement for another day.

I am fearing this team for two reasons. First, they play very good defense. Our offense struggles enough, we don't need a team that is going to take pride is making us work for every basket. If we play a little D ourselves this could be a very ugly game. Second, they have some very talented players. Rakim Sanders, as mentioned, was a 1,000 point scorer on a Big East team. Think he is intimidated by any Big Ten opponent? This team with Sanders, Needham, Olander and Barrow have balanced scoring. They were good last year and they appear to be better this year.

This is another great test for the Gophers.

  • Ralph Sampson III and Trevor Mbakwe will be facing a true big man for the first time this year. How will they, particularly RSIII, respond to a seven-footer in the paint.
  • Defending Rakim Sanders will be very interesting. I'm not sure who will be called upon to defend the high scoring forward but he will have a similar skill set to other Big Ten scoring forwards. I'd like to see a concerted effort to slow him down.
  • Fairfield is not a deep team, six guys play significant minutes and then a few more guys play six or seven each. We play a lot of guys, can we wear them down?

Should be a good test for Minnesota and hopefully we will start seeing some signs of this team playing better together as the new guys get accustomed to playing at this level and with each other.