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Minnesota Basketball: Previewing Iowa

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The Gophers begin conference play on the road in Iowa City

NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Gophers got the monkey off their back in terms of showing they can beat a power conference team, and after four cracks at the opportunity they finally made good in dominating fashion, taking down the Clemson Tigers as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. For Minnesota, they finally played a complete game against a major conference opponent, throttling the Tigers by nearly 20 points.

The tough schedule continues Monday as the Gophers begin the first of two early-season conference games against the Iowa Hawkeyes and KenPom’s current top team, the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Marcus Carr took a major step forward in the Clemson game, rebounding from a dud of an effort against DePaul to post an impressive 24 points and 9 assists, while pulling down 5 rebounds. It’s evident already that this team goes where Carr goes, and if he’s knocking down shots while ALSO delivering the basketball to someone like Daniel Oturu, the Gophers can be tough to beat. The flip side of that is that if Carr is trying to shoot through his troubles it can be a long night.

Was the Clemson victory an indicator of things to come as the team starts to jel or merely a flash in the pan?

Essentials:

Opponent:

Iowa Hawkeyes (6-3, 0-1)

Date and Time:

Monday, Dec. 9 @ 7 p.m. CT

Location:

Carver-Hawkeye Arena (Iowa City, IA)

TV:

BTN

Radio:

KFAN 100.3-FM

Tell me more about the opponent.

Iowa has racked up a decent resume thus far this year, notching victories over Texas Tech and Syracuse (albeit both of whose stars continue to fall) but also dropping games to DePaul, San Diego State and Michigan. So, they’re a good team, but also beatable.

They have an amazingly efficient offense, and are ranked third in KenPom as of Sunday. They take care of the ball and they win the turnover battle. A veteran team, the Gophers will need to play largely mistake-free basketball if they want to hang around with the Hawkeyes.

Luka Garza has taken a major leap forward in his junior season and is coming off a monster 44-point game against Michigan. For the season he’s averaging nearly 23 points and 10 rebounds per game.

Sophomore guard Joe Weiskamp has had an up and down season so far, but has settled in by averaging more than 10 points and 5 rebounds per game. However, his major performances have come against lower-tier teams and he’s been largely ineffective against better opponents.

And watch out for freshman guard CJ Fredrick, who is already averaging more than 10 points per game and had an impressive 21-point effort on 5-5 shooting from deep earlier this season against Cal Poly.

Meanwhile, senior guard Jordan Bohannon, who many feared would be lost for the season with an offseason hip injury, is rounding out the scorers, pitching in about 10 points per game. Bohannon tends to score in spurts

Predictions

It’s a good early season conference test for the Gophers, who get to show that the Clemson game wasn’t just a one-off performance. Garza will be a handful, but Minnesota also has the defensive prowess to disrupt the Hawkeye backcourt. It will come down to how efficient Carr can be and if Oturu can stay out of foul trouble. The Gophers need both of those guys to stay on the court and deliver if they want to walk away with a victory.

I’m not sold yet, so before I predict a win I need to see the Gophers perform on the road. I think they save embarrassment but lose by 7.