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Minnesota Basketball: Previewing Arkansas

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New test for the Gophers in the form of an aspirational SEC team

NCAA Basketball: Arkansas at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

The Gophers passed their second test of the season on Friday with a convincing home victory over the St. John’s Red Storm out of the Big East as part of the Gavitt Tipoff Games. Facing their first major conference opponent of the season, the Gophers once again spread out the scoring and stuffed the box score with some eye-popping numbers. Amir Coffey scored 30 points en route to being named the Big Ten Freshman Player of the Week, while Dupree McBrayer chipped in 18. Reggie Lynch swatted 9 blocks and grabbed 11 rebounds. And while the Gophers amp up the level of competition as they proceed through their non-conference schedule, they continue to show that a significant turnaround from last season is certainly plausible.

Up next are the Arkansas Razorbacks, where the training wheels will certainly come off. The Hogs represent a great test at this point for the Gophers, who have shown that they can at least beat a big conference opponent, but haven’t yet proven themselves against one with loftier expectations.

Arkansas has postseason hopes after something of a letdown season last year and a win at home will only further establish the Gophers as a team to take seriously this year.

Essentials:

Who are the Gophers playing?

Arkansas Razorbacks

What time are they playing?

7 p.m. CT

Where are they playing?

Williams Arena

Can I watch the game on TV?

Sort of. It’s on ESPN3.

Can I listen to the game on the radio?

Yes. 1500 ESPN.

Tell me more about the opponent

The Razorbacks come into the game at 3-0, with double-digit wins over IPFW and Southern Illinois and a slim victory over UT-Arlington — a game in which they had to battle back from being down 17 points.

Arkansas and Minnesota are almost spitting images of each other on paper and from a program standpoint. Both are struggling to get back to being relevant having grown tired of rebuilding. The Razorbacks even ran into some off-court trouble going into last season which impacted things on the court. Sounds familiar!

Both teams have shown fairly prolific offensive capabilities so far this season and above average defense, and are neck and neck with each other in both. Arkansas shoots the three-pointer very well when they attempt it, while Minnesota has had trouble defending it. However, Arkansas has had a terrible time giving up offensive boards, which could give the Gophers some daylight on second chance points.

The Hogs so far have been led by senior guard Dusty Hannahs (real name) who is already averaging 17 ppg. He’s not quite a chucker, but he loves to shoot and showed last year that he can really nail the deep ball if he gets going.

Also be on the lookout for Moses Kingsley, a 6-10 Nigerian forward who had NBA aspirations last year before pulling his name from the draft. He’s off to a bit of a slow start after averaging 16 and 9 last year, but he’s collected 16 blocks in just three games, so you know he’s a difference maker on defense.

Keys to the Game

On paper the two teams are great matches for each other, and many of their strengths are the other’s weaknesses. The Gophers are in for a true test to see where they’re at this early in the season against a quality opponent.

  1. Stay out of foul trouble - Arkansas does most of its damage closer to the hoop and does a good job at getting to the line. The Gophers have shown a propensity to get into foul trouble already this season and will do well to keep their major contributors on the court.
  2. Keep giving Amir Coffey the ball - Clearly this kid can play and was a matchup nightmare for the Red Storm. Let’s keep giving him the ball so he can show us what he’s capable of.
  3. Make those free throws - the Gophers are doing a great job at getting to the line. Cashing in has been a different story.

Predictions

  • KenPom has this as a one-point victory for the Gophers, 78-77. I’m taking Minnesota 84-80 to keep the magic going.