Minnesota started off the season with a real test against a very good Louisville team. Montrezl Harrell was the difference in this game and he dominated both inside and out showing off a new perimeter game. Terry Rozier combined with Harrell for 48 points on 23 shots. Minnesota looked to be on the ropes trailing in the first half trailing by double digits. They made a run toward the end of the half but Louisville responded to push the lead back out at the half. After half Louisville pushed the lead to 20 and the game was never close despite the respectable 13 point loss. Give Minnesota credit for not folding as they continued to chip into the lead in the 2nd half, although they never got over the hump.
Minnesota has size, but they are not very versatile. Seniors Walker and Eliason return to give the Gophers bulk, but not much else. Buggs and Konate are more athletic but young and raw. King is a shooter but doesn't give you much down low or defensively. Still, having size is valuable and Minnesota has a lot of it. Harrell dominated Minnesota, but he will dominate a lot of teams so that is nothing for Minnesota's bigs to be ashamed of.
As expected Hollins was Minnesota's best player and they will have to lean on him again this year. He struggled in that role last year shooting just 37.7% with defenses focused on stopping him. Against Louisville he had 22 points on 8-15 shooting. His backcourt mate Mathieu was one of the bigger surprises in the Big Ten last year. The Big Ten Geeks did a very good piece on him in their Minnesota preview. He is an unusual player, in that he is a little guy who does all his damage at the rim. Against Louisville he struggled with 4 fouls, 4 turnovers and 1-4 shooting. Freshman Nate Mason was a pleasant surprise at the point and looks like a player with a bright future. He had 10 points on 2-5 shooting, with 5 rebounds and 2 assists. Most impressive was 10 his FTA in his debut.
Junior Carlos Morris and sophomore Daquein McNeil round out the rotation on the wing. Neither one jumped out in the Louisville game, and they seem to be like most of the guys on Minnesota team- Pretty good players, but nothing special. Minnesota looks a lot like they did last season when they won the NIT- Pretty good team, but nothing special. I don't know where the improvement on this team comes from so I'm not expecting them to be any better than last year. I expect them to end up about where they did last year, hovering around .500 in the Big Ten and with a long day on selection Sunday that results in them finding their way into the NIT.