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Minnesota Basketball: Previewing Mount St. Mary’s

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Gophers get final tune-up before conference play begins in earnest

NCAA Basketball: Mount St. Mary’s at Georgetown Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

This time of year is always the definition of the calm before the storm. With the end of the semester upon us and students gone for the holidays, there isn’t much happening in the college basketball world. Throw in the fact that the games that DO happen are barely worth following and you’ve a recipe for the doldrums.

The Gophers have played just two games in 22 days, beating both North Florida and North Carolina A&T with Mount St. Mary’s awaiting as the final non-conference opponent of the year. But things pick up dramatically from here. The team heads to Wisconsin on Thursday to begin real conference play, before hosting Maryland and Rutgers. It’s about to get loud.

One thing to watch for today. Will Eric Curry play? He’s listed as a reserve and has been playing in full contact practices, albeit with a big knee brace. This could represent his long-awaited debut and would be a much-welcomed addition to the team.

Essentials:

Who are the Gophers playing?

Mount St. Mary’s (3-9)

What time are they playing?

Sunday, Dec. 30 @ 3 p.m. CT

Where are they playing?

Williams Arena

Can I watch the game on TV?

Yes, ESPNU.

Can I listen to the game on the radio?

Yes, KTLK 1130-AM/103.5-FM

Tell me more about the opponent.

The Mountaineers may be just two years removed from an NCAA Tournament appearance, but if the first 12 games of this season are any indication, it’s going to be a slog in 2019. Dan Englestad is in his first season and inherits a team that is returning zero starters and who lost its SEVEN top scorers from last year. That’s a lot of talent to replace.

And it hasn’t been going well. The Mount has just one win over a D-1 opponent and has been regularly losing by double digits in the rest of its games. Unfortunately, that’s not entirely unexpected for a team that is picked to finish last in one of the weakest conferences in the nation. In a bit of good news, they’ve won three in a row, albeit against two D-III teams and American.

The Mount comes to Minneapolis for the second time in three years, having lost both. They are led by Jalen Gibbs, a transfer from Drake, who is averaging 16 ppg and has scored more than 20 points three times already this year. Vado Morse adds nearly 11 points per contest, while Malik Jefferson is fourth in the NEC and leads the Mount with 7.5 rebounds per game.

At the end of the day, however, this one shouldn’t be close. The Mountaineers have one of the worst offensive efficiency ratings in the country and have been nearly just as bad on defense. The Gophers should have a field day.

Predictions

The Gophers are the clear favorite in this one, which isn’t surprising. KenPom likes Minnesota by 22, giving them a 83-61 nod. I’ll take Minnesota by 15.