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Gophers host North Dakota looking to win fourth straight

Non-conference homestand continues

NCAA Basketball: Summit Conference Tournament Championship-North Dakota vs North Dakota State Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

The Gophers survived a scare from Loyola Marymount in the back half of a rare non-conference two-game series thanks to some last second heroics from Marcus Carr, who nailed a step-back three pointer with two seconds left to hand Minnesota its third straight win.

At first glance it might look fairly bad for the Gophers to have skated by a middling WCC team by the skin of their teeth, and while the game was a sloppy, underperforming mess it’s important to realize that playing a team twice in three days is unusual and difficult. Especially for the favored team with no home fans and everything to lose. It’s not surprising that the Lions came out swinging in game two — they really wanted a win over a Big Ten team and had a second chance to do so. Did the Gophers sleepwalk through the game? Yes. Was it a win and we should move on? Also yes.

Next up is North Dakota — another middling mid-major who Minnesota should handle, at least on paper. There was always going to be a period of adjustment for a team with so many newcomers, and there are bound to be some growing pains. Let’s see how they rebound after a scare.

Essentials:

Opponent:

North Dakota Fighting Hawks (0-2)

Date and Time:

Friday, Dec. 4 @ 8 p.m. CT

Location:

Williams Arena

TV:

BTN

Radio:

KFAN 100.3-FM

Tell me more about the opponent.

The Hawks have had a rough start to the season, losing their first two games to Miami (OH) and Dixie State. Dixie State is a newcomer to the D-I level and is currently ranked 320th in KenPom, so it hasn’t been going well.

The Hawks made it all the way to the Summit League championship last year but had the magic run out against in-state rival NDSU. It was more of a Cinderella run than anything and UND is expected to finish middle of the pack this year in the conference.

The Hawks are led by junior forward Filip Rebraca, who was named Preseason All-Summit League First Team. Rebraca led the team and league with 13 double-doubles last year, averaging 14 ppg and 9 rpg. Rebraca is averaging 15 ppg so far this year, though he has run into foul trouble in both games. Weber State transfer Caleb Nero has also been scoring well for UND, averaging 12.5 ppg.

Minnesota will be their first major conference opponent of the season, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see them get off to a rough start against a Gophers team that has had a few games to warm up.

Predictions

Nothing about UND screams “upset alert”, though you never really know. They look more like a Green Bay than an LMU, however, and the Gophers shouldn’t have a ton of trouble with them. Vegas has Minnesota as a 21-point favorite and KenPom likes them by 22.

I’ll take Minnesota by 19, 86-67.