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Minnesota Basketball: Previewing Cleveland State

The regular season begins TONIGHT

Photo by Brad Rempel (University of Minnesota)

Wake up, everybody! It’s time for college basketball. Maybe you’ve been too enamored with the 8-0 start from the team’s gridiron counterparts, but it’s high time to remind you that the Gophers really, truly start their real life college basketball season tonight against the hated Vikings from Cleveland State. It’s the first-ever meeting between the two schools.

This season is full of newcomers. We said “goodbye” to guys like Amir Coffey, Jordan Murphy and Dupree McBrayer, but we welcome an insane SEVEN new faces, most of whom will make an impact this year. While you may not know them now, in a couple months you’ll be plenty familiar with guys like Marcus Carr (new point guard!), Payton Willis (new small forward!), Alihan Demir (new power forward!) and Tre’ Williams (new sixth man!).

Cleveland State is an ideal first opponent in a non-conference schedule that is chock full of major conference foes. Minnesota is embarking on one of the toughest starts to the schedule in many years. After Tuesday’s opener against the Vikings, the Gophers will play the next three games away from home, all against high-major conference competition. The Gophers have not faced three high-major teams in their first four games since 1969 (Notre Dame, UCLA, at Iowa State).

The Gophers have been sharp in their two exhibition games, winning a closed scrimmage against Iowa State and dominating D-II Southwest Minnesota State. Now it matters. Let’s go.

Essentials:

Who are the Gophers playing?

Cleveland State Vikings (5-13, 10-21 last year)

What time are they playing?

Tuesday, Nov. 5 @ 7 p.m. CT

Where are they playing?

Williams Arena

Can I watch the game on TV?

Sort of. It’s on BTN+, which requires an online subscription.

Can I listen to the game on the radio?

Yes, KTLK 1130-AM/103.5-FM

Tell me more about the opponent.

Cleveland State is not going to be a good basketball team this year. In fact, this is head coach Dennis Gates’ first game at the helm of the Vikings who failed to qualify for the Horizon League conference tournament last year. The Vikings are in something of a rebuild, and have been for some time. You may know them best from their 2009 NCAA Tournament upset of then-4 seed Wake Forest, when the Vikings were an upstart 13-seed. In fact, Cleveland State was something of a Horizon League powerhouse between 2008 and 2015. However, the last four seasons have not been kind.

The Vikings will be led by Jaalam Hill, a 6-7, 225 lb. power forward who was second on the team in scoring last year and led the team in blocked shots. He’s the main guy to worry about.

Predictions

The Gophers should win this one going away, even though it’s their first game. Cleveland State is low on experience, which won’t help them in their first game out the gate on the road against a superior team. I’m taking Minnesota by 15.