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Minnesota Basketball: Previewing Florida State

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Gophers at 6-0 heading to Big Ten/ACC Challenge

NCAA Basketball: NIT Season Tip-Off-Florida State vs Illinois Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Gophers have passed the first few tests thrown at them so far in this season, but things are about to get ratcheted up quite a bit when they head down to Tallahassee to take on Florida State in what’s seems like their annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge matchup. For one, it’s the team’s first true road game of the season. In fact, it’s the first game away from Williams Arena, period. And for a team still learning to play with each other, operating in an unfamiliar gym can be all sorts of terrifying. The Gophers haven’t had to face a ton of adversity yet this year, so we haven’t had a chance to see much of them under duress. But seeing how they handle themselves against adept competition will be very telling.

Also, the Seminoles are now a top 25 team, and easily represent the stiffest opponent the Gophers have faced yet this year. Arkansas previously held that distinction, and the Gophers handled them pretty easily. But facing a top 25 team on the road is an entirely different prospect. And the ‘Noles have enough NBA-level talent to put up points in a hurry.

Essentials:

Who are the Gophers playing?

Florida State Seminoles

What time are they playing?

6 p.m. CT

Where are they playing?

Tallahassee, Fla.

Can I watch the game on TV?

Yes. ESPNU.

Can I listen to the game on the radio?

Yes. 1500 ESPN.

Tell me more about the opponent

I’m guessing the Big Ten/ACC Challenge coordinators didn’t expect these two teams to be a combined 11-1 heading into this matchup, but here we are. The Seminoles come into the game 5-1 and fresh off a victory over Illinois in the consolation game of the NIT Season Tip-Off last weekend. They lost in the same tournament to Temple and really don’t have any other wins of note with the exception of Iona. They’re ranked a sneaky 36 on KenPom, which means for the first time all season the Gophers are underdogs heading into the game.

And make no mistake, the Seminoles are for real this year, with aspirations of winning the ACC. They’re one of the deepest, most athletic teams out there with the personnel to make it a very long night for the Gophers. In fact, they have a few guys who have aspirations of playing in the NBA.

The story for the ‘Noles this year has been Dwayne Bacon, one the biggest recruits to come through the program and one who toyed with entering the NBA draft this year. A 6-7 small forward, he’s off to a quick start, averaging 18 ppg and shooting 52% from the field, and nearly 50% from deep.

Freshman forward Jonathan Isaac has also been a terror on the court so far this season. Rail thin at 6-10, 210-lbs, Isaac is already averaging 16 ppg and 6 rpg and has showcased the ability to step back and hit three pointers.

Also don’t forget about 7-1 senior Michael Ojo (remember him?). He sat out all last year with a knee injury and is back to terrorize us again.

Keys to the Game

Florida State will offer a huge wake up call for the Gophers, who haven’t faced anyone with nearly this type of firepower. It’s actually a good barometer of where they’re at this point in the season, as the Seminoles will look the part of a top-tier conference opponent.

  1. Disrupt, disrupt, disrupt - The Seminoles have one of the better offenses in the nation so far, averaging an absurd 91 ppg and the 16th best effective FG%. If the Gophers want to stick around in this one they’ve got to get FSU off it’s game early. That means mitigating huge runs that can spur momentum and really make things difficult. Minnesota has had a very effective defense so far this season, but how will it stack up against such an impressive offense? Will they be able to adjust?
  2. Stay mentally tough - The Gophers are a young team and haven’t had to face much adversity yet this season. Sure, they’ve battled back from deficits and have finished their games going away, but how will they react when they have the screws put to them in a hostile environment? For many of these guys, this will be their first nationally-televised game in a true road game. There’s no telling how they’ll react and mitigating the effects of the environment will be key.
  3. Please make your free throws - Minnesota sucks at free throw shooting. It’s as simple as that. They left 10 points on the board against SIU last game. Sooner or later that will come back to bite them.

Predictions

KenPom has this one at 80-73 for the Seminoles. I think the Gophers drop their first game of the year 80-70.