The Gophers failed their first big test of the season earlier this week against Illinois in the Big Ten opener. And calling it a failure might be doing it justice. Yes, Minnesota was facing very good Illini team, but was stuck out from the nearly 30-point drubbing was just how bad the Gophers looked on offense. They shot a miserable 27% from the field and were disastrous from long range once again, going 7-28. And that was after hitting their first three long balls to start the game.
Illinois played well, but it was the Gophers who gave the game away in fairly impressive fashion. It didn’t look all that different from the first few games of the season where Minnesota was able to overcome their offensive deficiencies against lower-tier opponents.
Those issues will now be aired on a nightly basis and for the foreseeable future given that the Gophers now face a stiff set of opponents over the next seven games. And if they are going to want to win any games they will need to figure out how to score more consistently. The going doesn’t get any easier tonight as Minnesota welcomes a very good Saint Louis team to The Barn where they will be underdogs against their final non-conference foe.
Saint Louis Billikens (6-0)
Date and Time:
Sunday, Dec. 20 @ 7:30 p.m. CT
Tell me more about the opponent.
The Billikens already have a more impressive resume than the Gophers, having beaten LSU and North Carolina State already this season. Picked to finish near or atop the Atlantic 10, Saint Louis returns all five of last year’s starters from a team that nearly handed Dayton its only conference loss and finished 4th in the A-10. This year? They’re in the running to win the whole conference.
Senior guard Jordan Goodwin leads the way and is plastered across the country on watch lists for things like the Jerry West Award (top shooting guard) and A-10 Player of the Year. Yeah, he’s good and maybe the best rebounding guard in the nation. This year he is averaging a double-double for the second consecutive season with 15.2 ppg and 11 rpg.
A 6-foot-3 senior, he is averaging a double-double for the second straight season with 15.2 points and an Atlantic 10-best 11.0 rebounds per game. Goodwin was the only player in Division I last season to rank in the top 100 nationally in rebounds with a listed height of 6-3 or shorter.
Saint Louis is close to being ranked, and a win over Minnesota might vault them into the Top 25. Currently they are a projected 8-seed in Bracketology.
The Billikens do their damage in the rebounding category, and are the A-10’s top rebounding team. They overpowered NC State most recently by obtaining a +27 rebounding advantage. For a Minnesota team that had trouble on the boards against Illinois that is a concerning number. Senior forward Hasahn French is a candidate for the Karl Malone Award that goes to the nation’s top power forward.
However, the Billikens also damage on offense. In addition to being KenPom’s eight-most efficient shooters, they lead the conference in scoring, field goal percentage and three-point percentage. Watch out; they are undefeated for a reason.
The Gophers did not look like a team that can beat many opponents last time out against Illinois and Saint Louis is a veteran team that can hurt you in a number of ways. However, they are undersized, even with a superb rebounding guard in Goodwin. Minnesota’s length and size will help, but they need to erase the rebounding advantage the Billikens have had all season and, frankly, start making some shots if they want to win.
Still, the Gophers haven’t looked quite right this season and there is a reason they are underdogs coming into this one. I’m going with Saint Louis by 5.