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Minnesota Basketball: Previewing Butler

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Gophers head to Indianapolis for their first true road game

NCAA Basketball: Big East Tournament-Butler vs Providence Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

It’s no secret that the Gophers are playing a substantially harder non-conference schedule than usual. With several power conference opponents on the docket, Minnesota will see its new-look roster tested early an often. The team failed its first test on a neutral court against Oklahoma, giving away the game down the stretch to a Sooners team that didn’t necessarily look better. But the Gophers shooting prowess stalled in the final ten minutes, leading to a loss. Such is life for a shooting team.

Things don’t get any easier on Tuesday evening, as the Gophers head to historic Hinkle Fieldhouse to face the Butler Bulldogs in a true road test as part of the Gavitt Tipoff Games. Butler is 2-0 on the year with wins over IUPUI and New Orleans. Minnesota will be the hardest team they’ve faced yet this year, but they’ll also be defending their home court, where they’re always dangerous. The Gophers are 2-0 in the Gavitt Games, which pair Big Ten teams with Big East opponents. Minnesota beat St. John’s in 2016 and Providence in 2017. Minnesota is 3-0 all-time against Butler.

Essentials:

Who are the Gophers playing?

Butler Bulldogs (2-0)

What time are they playing?

Tuesday, Nov. 12 @ 7:30 p.m.

Where are they playing?

Hinkle Fieldhouse (Indianapolis, IN)

Can I watch the game on TV?

Yes, FS1

Can I listen to the game on the radio?

Yes, KTLK 1130-AM/103.5-FM and SiriusXM 971

Tell me more about the opponent.

The Bulldogs are coming off just their second losing season since 2005, and they missed the NCAA Tournament for just the first time since 2014. It was definitely a bizarre season in Indy. They’ve lost four of their five starters from last year, further pushing the team into a bit of a reset.

Still, Butler is looking to bounce back, and they have the nation’s second-longest non-conference home winning streak (52) behind only Duke. It’s going to be a difficult task for a Minnesota team who lacks a ton of experience.

Five Bulldogs are averaging double-figures, led by 19.5 points per game from Sean McDermott, who scored 26 points in the season opener against the Jaguars. Senior guard Kamar Baldwin was selected to the Preseason All-Big East First Team, and is also listed on the Wooden Trophy, Naismith Award & Jerry West Award Watch Lists.

The Gophers will have their hands will with so many players who can score the ball, especially with someone like McDermott who will pose a true threat to a thin frontcourt. Minnesota should get Isaiah Ihnen back to help out Alihan Demir. But Butler also showed an inability to defend last year, which could leave the door open for a Minnesota offense that has quick-strike abilities.

Predictions

The Gophers are true underdogs in this one, heading to Indianapolis as 9.5-point underdogs. KenPom similarly is doubting the Gophers, predicting a nine-point win for the Bulldogs.

We’re still early in the season, and teams across the nation are still finding their identities. Minnesota looked good for 34 of the game against Oklahoma, but couldn’t get across the finish line. If Gabe Kalscheur is hitting his shots they will have a chance to stick around. Still, until they can prove they belong against a major conference opponent it’s hard to predict a win. I’ll take Butler by seven.