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Minnesota Basketball: Previewing Boston College

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Gophers head east as part of ACC/B1G Challenge

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-Clemson vs Boston College Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

5-0. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? After five games that have run the gamut of boring to nerve-wracking, the Gophers find themselves undefeated after having faced a particularly challenging early non-conference slate. Wins over Utah, Texas A&M and Washington haven’t come easy, but the Gophers have looked exceedingly comfortable squaring off against P5 competition early in the season.

The non-conference slate doesn’t show signs up easing up either, as the Gophers now head to the East Coast to Chestnut Hill, Mass. to take on Boston College in their annual date with an ACC foe. For Minnesota, it’s their first true road game of the season and their first-ever matchup against the Eagles, which actually seems sort of hard to believe. The Gophers are 9-10 all-time in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and have a 3-2 mark under Richard Pitino in the Challenge. Minnesota has dropped two in a row after winning five straight Challenge games between 2011 and 2015.

Essentials:

Who are the Gophers playing?

Boston College Eagles (4-1)

What time are they playing?

Monday, Nov. 26 @ 8 p.m. CT

Where are they playing?

Silvio Conte Forum, Chestnut Hill, Mass.

Can I watch the game on TV?

Yes, ESPN2.

Can I listen to the game on the radio?

Yes, KFAN 100.3-FM.

Tell me more about the opponent.

The Eagles come into the game at 4-1 having just won the inaugural Fort Myers Tip-Off and defeating Wyoming and Loyola-Chicago along the way. And with a win over one of last year’s Final Four teams, it might be easy to say that BC is on the right track so far this season. But not so fast. The Eagles have also dropped a true home game to IUPUI already this season, which was a real head scratcher.

To their credit, BC returns four starters from a team that went to the NIT last year, and already sports four players who average in double figures. The Eagles are led by junior guard Ky Bowman, who can do it all. He leads the team in scoring, assists and steals, and is second in rebounding. He also already has a 38- and 26-point game to his credit this season. Watch out.

Bowman is also supported by Steffon Mitchell, a 6-8 forward and product of Shakopee. Mitchell is the ACC’s fourth-leading rebounder so far this season, and should match up well with Jordan Murphy.

The Eagles are on the upswing as a program and should present a real challenge for the Gophers. However, they haven’t faced a team of Minnesota’s caliber yet this season, so the element of surprise is always there for an already well-seasoned Gopher squad.

Oh, and did you know that Vin Baker Jr. plays on Boston College?

What to Watch For

Will travel finally be a factor for Minnesota?
The Gophers haven’t played a home game in more than two weeks, and won’t officially be back home until Dec. 5 against Nebraska. Now, the Gophers must travel from British Columbia all the way to Massachusetts, playing in a nationally televised game just five days after an exhausting win over Washington. Long story short, it’s a lot to ask of a team early in the season to travel more than 2,500 miles and I won’t be surprised if they’re a little tired from the recent grind.

When will that offense finally play a complete game?
The Gophers have yet to play a complete game this season, which isn’t altogether surprising. Still, their last two games offensively have been difficult to watch at times and has held them back from pulling away from teams when it really matters. Amir Coffey and Dupree McBrayer are shooting just 40% and 36% from the field, respectively, which has held back the overall flow and effectiveness of the offense. Assuming Gabe Kalscheur regresses from his super-human performance, the Gophers will need their upperclassmen to step up and shoulder more of the load.

Predictions

It’s essentially a toss-up, but KenPom likes Boston College in this one by a point, giving them a 74-73 nod. I think the Gophers finally run out of luck and take a loss in a close one, 75-70.