Tonight the Providence Friars return to the Dunkin Donuts Center for the first time this season to play the #14 Minnesota Golden Gophers in the annual Gavitt Tipoff Games. The game will tip off at 6:30pn and will be televised on FS1 with Tim Brando and Bill Raftery on the call. Both teams come into the contest coming off wins in their opener, as PC beat Houston Baptist 84-55 and Minnesota edging SC Upstate 92-77. The Golden Gophers are 1-0 in the Gavitt Games and the Friars are 1-1 in the event. This game is a matchup of two very similar teams. The Gophers and the Friars both used late season surges to make the NCAA tournament and both found themselves bounced after one game. These two squads return a lot of what they had last season and add a ESPN Top-100 PG (Makai Ashton-Langford for PC and Isaiah Washington for Minnesota). It expect this to be a very close and exciting concepts so let’s get right to my keys to the game for the Friars.
Contain Minny’s Bigs:
I’m sure one of the main focus points for Ed Cooley and staff is what the Friars are going to do with Minnesota up front. With the injury to Emmitt Holt the Gophers have the clear cut edge down low. The Gophers are led down low by junior Jordan Murphy and senior Reggie Lynch. The duo combined for 50 points and 25 rebounds in their opening win. At 6′ 10″ 260 pounds Reggie Lynch is an absolute monster who will steal your lunch money if you take the ball to the rack, as he averaged an absurd 4 blocks per game last season. I’d expect Cooley to sub in sophomore Kalif Young (if he doesn’t start) and freshman Dajour Dickens early in often to throw multiple looks at the Gophers big men. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kalif Young fouls out of this game and hell I may encourage it. Alpha Diallo and Jalen Lindsey are going to have to provide help defense and rebounding off the wing in order for the Friars to not get destroyed on the glass.
What Nate Mason Will We See?:
While the Gophers do have a lot up front their leading scorer from last year was actually in the backcourt, with guard Nate Mason. Mason led the Gophers with 15.2 ppg last season and is much more of a scoring guard then Providence’s Kyron Cartwright. I have watched Mason for a while now in much thanks due to the fact I used to play college basketball games on Draft Kings before the NCAA put the kibosh on that thing. Nate Mason can really score the ball but he’s a volume shooter who is extremely streaky and it costs his team. In 10 losses for Minnesota last year Mason shot just above 33% (50/148) from the floor including a putrid 27% from 3 (11/41). This is a guy who averaged over 13 shots per game last season, so if he’s going to shoot it at that clip the Gophers won’t leave the Dunk with a win. Shooting 3/10 may be good enough to beat SC Upstate but it won’t cut it vs the Friars. I am really intrigued to see the play of both teams’ lead guards Nate Mason and Kyron Cartwright.
While Minnesota has the edge in the front court I think the Friars have a huge advantage in the depth department. Minnesota played 9 guys in their opener but realistically this is a 6 man rotation with their 5 starters and the freshman guard Washington. The Friars played 12 guys in their opener and I expect them to feature a 10 man rotation tonight. My friends and I were joking that the Friars have platoons this year just like the Kentucky Wildcat team of a few years back. While platoons may be a stretch the Friars do have a ton of guys that can play and look for Ed Cooley to try and use that to tire out the Gophers. The Friars are going to need contributions from their bench in order to come out with the victory.
The season may have started last Friday night but tonight really feels like it’s for real. The Friars will get a real threat early in the season against a Minnesota team that I believe poses a lot of problems for PC. I think this game will be tightly contested throughout and may not be decided until late in the game clock. Tonight will mark the first time the Friars have hosted a top 25 non-conference opponent to the Dunk since 11/22/06 and I’m sure crowd will be ready. I think at the end of the day it’s a big ask for the Gophers to come in on a true road game this early in the season and I think the Friars depth will ultimately catch up to the Gophers.
Friars 71 Gophers 68
Enoy the Game and GO FRIARS!