Meet The Opponents: Minnesota Golden Gophers

Selection Sunday went exactly how Louisville fans thought it would. Louisville earned a 7-seed and received a matchup that perfectly fit the NCAA’s agenda, 10-seed Minnesota. The NCAA successfully created a front page story and, of course, threw the game into the very first time slot of the tournament. Since the Selection Show, the talk surrounding this game has been about Richard and Rick Pitino. Because of this, I won’t mention it anymore in this article.

Fun Facts

  • Minnesota has 0 NCAA Titles, but has 3 NIT Championships.
  • Minnesota is home to the man with the shortest celebrity marriage ever recorded, Kris Humphries.
  • Richard Pitino took over for Tubby Smith, while Tubby Smith took over for Richard’s dad, Rick, at UK.

Notable Alumni:

  • Tony Dungy
  • Bob Dylan
  • Flip Saunders

MEET THE TEAM

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Minnesota’s starting 5 is long and so is their bench. The Gophers start three guards, but they range in heights from 6’4″, 6’5″, and 6’8″. Amir Coffey is a junior and headlines the guard group. Coffey leads the team in scoring with 16.3 points per game, but does most of his work inside the arc and at the free throw line. And does so efficiently (50% 2PT FG, 73% FT). His 6’8″ frame makes him a tough matchup for any team so expect to see Dwayne Sutton tasked with stopping him. Freshman Gabe Kalscheur and Senior Dupree McBrayer round out the backcourt, averaging 9.9 and 9.1 points per game, respectively. Jordan Murphy starts at forward for the Gophers.

The 6’6″ 250-pound senior is second on the team in scoring at 14.8 points per game and he also does most (if not all) of his work inside. He’s only shot 26 threes all season and for good reason, as he’s only hit 6 of them. His most impressive stat isn’t is scoring ability, instead, it’s his rebounding. He leads the team with 11.5 rebounds per game, and gets 3.4 of those on the offensive end. Daniel Oturu completes the starting five for the Gophers. The 6’10” freshman is the third and final Minnesota player to average double-figures in scoring (10.8 points per game). He is also second on the team in rebound at 7.2 rebounds per game, with 2.6 of those coming offensively.

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Louisville will have to find Oturu and Murphy when the shot goes up and limit the Gophers to one shot per possession. Isaiah Washington will likely be the first guy off the bench. The sophomore guard is the shortest player that will see the floor for the Gophers, but still stands at 6’1″. He isn’t much of a scoring threat, but does pass the ball well (2.9 assists per game). Last, but certainly not least is former-Cardinal Matz Stockman. Stockman transferred to Minnesota after 3 seasons with the Cards. He doesn’t play much for the Gophers (10.7 minutes per game), but he is second on the team in blocks with 0.9 per game. He has been in concussion protocol, so his status for the game is questionable.

Minnesota is an intriguing matchup for Louisville. They rebound the ball very well, especially on the offensive end. The Gophers had a 29% offensive rebound rate, which is a cause of concern for this game. If Louisville doesn’t focus on the defensive glass, the Cards could be in for a long day. But, there are a lot of ways Louisville is better than this Minnesota team: scoring offense, scoring defense, total rebounds, 3PT %, FG % and free throw %. The way Minnesota can win this game is through their work on the offensive glass. If Louisville can neutralize or win that battle, the Cards should be able to advance onto the second round.

When I first saw the matchup, I was admittedly worried. But as I looked deeper into the Minnesota data, I began to feel more confident. I think Louisville wins tomorrow. The game may start ugly, but Louisville will find its rhythm and pull away. Chris Mack will have his team ready to play and begin their tournament run.

The game will tip-off at 12:15 ET and will be televised on CBS.

Prediction:

Louisville 73 – Minnesota 63

Go Cards!

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