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Minnesota Basketball: Previewing Oklahoma State

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Gophers come back home for the U.S. Bank Stadium Classic

NCAA Basketball: Big 12 Conference Tournament-Kansas v Oklahoma State Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports

The Gophers came crashing back to earth on Monday against Boston College, losing 68-56 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and showing very little resolve in a game that wasn’t even as close as the final score indicated.

Indeed, Minnesota continued its putrid offensive performance, shooting below 30% from the field and struggling to find offensive consistency for the third game in a row. They avoided meltdowns out west as part of the Vancouver Showcase, but the chickens finally came home to roost against the Eagles when they finally, almost literally couldn’t score.

It’s been a long, tiring stretch for the team that hasn’t played a home game since Nov. 12 and won’t play a true home game until Dec. 5. The Boston College game came five days and 2,500 miles after a tiring tilt with Washington, so it’s maybe not entirely surprising that they weren’t able to get up for a road game after a long trip on a separate coast.

Now, the Gophers come “home” for the inaugural U.S. Bank Stadium Classic where they’ll face Oklahoma State in a neutral court game that happens to be in the team’s backyard. So, it will be a home game in sense that it’s in the Twin Cities, but will be played in an unfamiliar venue that hasn’t yet hosted a basketball game. They get the benefits of being in front of a friendly crowd, but won’t enjoy the benefits of being in their true friendly confines.

Oklahoma State represents another P5 opponent for the Gophers, who have already faced four this season, and will get two more in Ohio State and Nebraska before the non-conference schedule resumes. It’s turning out to be a challenging, if not brutal

The Gophers get the late game of the first day of the U.S. Bank Stadium Classic, which appears to be put on to prepare the venue to host the Final Four at the end of the year. Crowds will be treated to St. Thomas vs. UW-River Falls early in the evening before the main event at 9 p.m. Saturday contests include NDSU vs. Drake and SDSU vs. Northern Iowa.

Essentials:

Who are the Gophers playing?

Oklahoma State Cowboys (4-2)

What time are they playing?

Friday, Nov. 30 @ 9 p.m. CT

Where are they playing?

U.S. Bank Stadium

Can I watch the game on TV?

Yes, BTN.

Can I listen to the game on the radio?

Yes, KFAN 100.3-FM.

Tell me more about the opponent.

The Cowboys shocked the Big 12 last year with a surprise run to the NIT quarterfinals after being picked to finish last in the conference. It was a great premiere for new head coach Mike Boynton, who took over for Brad Underwood, who departed to Illinois. However, instead of 2018-19 being a year to continue the momentum, Oklahoma State lost its top three scorers to graduation and must rely on role players to step up and fill the void.

So far the results have been mixed, as OSU dropped a head scratcher to Charlotte to open the season and got blown out by Villanova in the Advocare Invitational before recovering to defeat LSU in the consolation game.

Cameron McGriff, who was named to the AdvoCare Invitational All-Tournament Team, leads the Cowboy offense averaging 16.8 points per game along with team-high 7.0 rebounds per contest, and is one of five OSU players to average double figures. Freshman Isaac Likekele is one of just five true freshmen in the country averaging 8.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game.

It’s an extremely winnable game for the Gophers, who are looking to get back on track and show that the Boston College loss was just an anomaly.

What to Watch For

Seriously, what’s the deal with the offense?
It’s getting pretty dire out there. Here are the field goal percentages from the past three games: 29%, 38%, 36%. It’s shocking that they’ve gone 2-1 in that span actually. What’s worse, it’s coincided with the senior leaders being very inconsistent. If Minnesota is going to win this year they’re going to have to get reliable performances from at least two out of Jordan Murphy, Amir Coffey and Dupree McBrayer. The result at Boston College is what happens when two of those leaders don’t show up. It wasn’t pretty.

The Gophers have solved some of those woes by playing good defense and getting unexpected performances from freshmen Gabe Kalscheur and Daniel Oturu. If they want to continue to defeat P5 teams and compete against conference opponents, the upperclassmen are going to need to step up in a very consistent way.

Predictions

It’s essentially a toss-up, but KenPom likes Minnesota in this one by two points, giving them a 74-72 nod. I think the Gophers get out of their funk, taming the Cowboys and rolling to a 72-64 victory.