To say the Gophers fell short of expectations against Nebraska on Tuesday would be something of an understatement. In a game they were expected to dominate, Minnesota came out flat, sloppy and unable to shoot. And it wasn’t close. The Cornhuskers outworked the Gophers in every facet of the game, and deployed a blueprint that Miami drew up in how to beat the Gophers, which is run a high pick and roll and destroy the Gophers with sharp cuts and open three pointers. It’s something that every opposing coach now has up on the bulletin board before games, and is something the Gophers will need to combat if they want to meet expectations this year.
Next up, however, is the last high-profile non-conference game of the season. After a brief two-game conference hiatus (which is truly a product of the abominable), the Gophers now face the Arkansas Razorbacks in a true road game and the back half of a two-year home-and-home agreement. Minnesota destroyed the Hogs last year at Williams Arena en route to a very nice season. This year? It’s unlikely they’ll sneak up on anyone. Arkansas is a tournament-worthy team again this year and already has wins over Oklahoma and UConn this year. However, they took a digger against Houston on the road, losing by 26 in a game they’d probably like to forget. Still, the Gophers will have their hands full in their final true test before they kick off the real conference season on Jan. 3.
Who are the Gophers playing?
Arkansas Razorbacks (6-2, 0-0)
What time are they playing?
Saturday, Dec. 12 @ 5:45 p.m. CT
Where are they playing?
Bud Walton Arena
Can I watch the game on TV?
Yes, SEC Network.
Can I listen to the game on the radio?
Yes, 100.3-FM KFAN
Tell me more about the opponent.
The Razorbacks almost beat North Carolina in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last year, giving away a 12-point lead down the stretch in a heartbreaker. This year’s team is looking to build on last year’s success and is loaded with talent that does seven or eight players deep. The Hogs have eight players who average 19 minutes or more (the Gophers have six), which should give you an idea of their talent level.
Leading the way is senior guard Jaylen Barford, who is averaging nearly 20 points per game and is shooting 46 percent from long range. He’s joined by fellow senior guard Daryl Macon, who is averaging a little more than 14 points per game, but is also hitting his deep shots at a 40 percent clip. You know Arkansas is just licking their chops for a try at this Minnesota three-point defense (hint: it’s not good).
The Arkansas defense has been pretty good this year, though they’ve been torched more than once by high-powered offenses. Their strengths, however, have been in shooting the three and minimizing turnovers. They’re a veteran team playing at home and should be very difficult to knock off if the Gophers don’t play pristine basketball.
Keys to the Game
Counter Arkansas Gameplan
Assume that the game plan is to slow Jordan Murphy. Miami crowded him; Nebraska mauled him. Arkansas will have a central piece of their game plan around slowing down our All-American big man. The Gophers have to have something to counter that and make them pay by scoring in other ways. Like making shots.
Defend Jaylen Barford
I have a sick feeling that Barford is going to have a career game in this one. While the Razorbacks have a lot of weapons, it’s imperative that Minnesota slows down Barford, A high-scoring senior who can knock down a three? Sounds like Minnesota’s nightmare.
KenPom likes the Arkansas in this one, predicting 2-point win, 85-83. I’m too beaten down from the Nebraska game to pick the Gophers in this one. I think Arkansas wins by six.