If there was any question that the Gophers were on the upswing for the 2019-20 season it was quickly erased after a 20-point drubbing of a pretty good Oklahoma State team in what was effectively a road game. Pair that with a blowout of then-#3 Ohio State and all of a sudden the season isn’t as drab as it was just three weeks ago. This time it was Gabe Kalscheur who took the scoring reins, pouring in an impressive 34 points and ratcheting up his shooting game after a string of MIA performances. With the win, the Gophers are finally showing what they can accomplish when their top shooters make baskets and pair with Daniel Oturu to up the offensive intensity. We’re seeing what this team is capable of.
Now, Minnesota wraps up the non-conference season against the Florida International Panthers, and comes back after a week-long Christmas break looking to improve to 7-5 and continue the momentum into conference play. This is the first time Richard Pitino has faced his old team, as he coached the Panthers during the 2012-13 season.
Florida International Panthers (9-3)
Date and Time:
Saturday, Dec. 28 @ 3 p.m. CT
Tell me more about the opponent.
Florida International is 9-3 on the season, but don’t let the record fool you; it looks to be a bit inflated. Three of their wins have come against NAIA schools, while the remainder haven’t come against a team who ranks better than 281 in KenPom. Still, this is a senior-laden team that played Mississippi State and NC State closely early in the season and is on a six-game winning streak.
Four Panthers are averaging double figures in scoring, led by Devon Andrews who chips in 16.7 points per game and averages more than 5 rebounds. Senior forward Osasumwen Osaghae is right behind him, averaging 13 points and 8 boards, including a 19-18 double game earlier in the season.
That said, Oturu may be challenged down low. As of Dec. 26, FIU is leading the nation in blocked shots per game, rejecting 7.6 opponent shots per contest. They also rank in the top-10 in steals per game, scoring offense, 3-point FG defense, and assists.
As for tempo, FIU has the shortest possession length of any team in the nation, according to KenPom.
Minnesota is playing as good as it has all season and has found a new gear offensively and should win this one handily. FIU won’t be a pushover — this is a veteran team that can score the ball, even though it can be a bit sloppy with it — but they haven’t faced a team of Minnesota’s caliber in more than six weeks.
Assuming the Gopher guards don’t completely disappear from the field (a la Iowa) they should win this one by 10.