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Minnesota Basketball: Previewing Omaha

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Let’s kick this thing off!

NCAA Basketball: Omaha at Kansas Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Folks, we’re here. It’s time to start the season. I know the sour taste of last year’s death march through the arid wastelands of January and February is still in our mouths, but we need to do our best to rinse it out with some New Season Mouthwash and get to work.

And guess what? Everyone is healthy. Our coach definitely isn’t on the hot seat, and we have our star player on the Naismith Award watch list. The world is our oyster.

The Gophers start it off easy with a season opener against Omaha, who is expected to finish near the bottom of the Summit League this year. The Gophers have faced the Mavericks twice before and are 2-0 in the series.

Essentials:

Who are the Gophers playing?

Omaha Mavericks (0-0)

What time are they playing?

Tuesday, Nov. 6 @ 7 p.m.

Where are they playing?

Williams Arena

Can I watch the game on TV?

Sort of. BTN Plus.

Can I listen to the game on the radio?

Yes, 100.3-FM KFAN and SiriusXM 984.

Tell me more about the opponent.

The Mavericks return four starters from a team that was near the bottom of KenPom’s rankings in defensive efficiency last year, so it’s unclear just how much improvement they’ll show early in the season. That uptick from a veteran presence can be powerful.

The Mavs are led by senior guard senior guard Zach Jackson, who led the team last year with 17.5 ppg and 6.4 rpg, while shooting 82% from the line. He’s joined in the frontcourt by Mitch Hahn, a 6-8 senior forward who averaged nearly 12 ppg and more than 7 rpg last year.

To be clear, last year was a giant step back for the Mavericks, who are looking to jump back into the middle of the pack in the Summit. Still, that’s quite the hill to climb to be competitive against a physical Big Ten team like Minnesota.

Keys to the Game

Nobody get injured

Eric Curry is out for the next few weeks recovering from a knee injury, so let’s just keep the foot on the gas, get some of the younger guys some run and call it a night, okay?

Seriously, the Gophers are bigger, stronger and better at scoring than Omaha, so settling for anything less than a convincing win is not what they want to do. You always run the risk of letting a veteran-laden mid-major hang around too long and gain some confidence, so let’s put this one away early and escape unscathed.

Predictions

The Gophers come into this one as 14.5-point Vegas favorites. I’ll take them by 12, 90-78. I’m rolling with Isaiah Washington as the game’s high scorer.

Comment Contest

We’re starting a season-long, ongoing contest. Winner wins bragging rights. Leave your answers as a comment and we’ll track performance throughout the season.

  • Who wins, and what’s the final score?
  • Who will be the game’s high scorer?