The Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks and the Minnesota Golden Gophers are just getting started this season. The two teams will find out a lot more about where they stand after Sunday’s game in Minneapolis.
The Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks defeated McMurry, a non-Division I school, in their opener on Friday. ULM is just trying to get its feet wet and settle into the season. The Sun Belt Conference has been known to be a chaotic conference. The conference tournament has been a volatile one over the years, so the Warhawks know that if they can at least avoid the top two seeds in the first few rounds of the tournament, they might have a chance to advance and create a March surprise. First, though, they have four months in which they need to work hard and put themselves in position to succeed. This test against a Big Ten opponent will help them to find out exactly what they need to work on.
Minnesota watched its athletic director and an associate athletic director both resign in the offseason due to personal conduct problems, so momentum was not really on their side heading into the season. However, they won its first game on Friday against the University of Missouri at Kansas City. The Golden Gophers were not bothered that much in a 76-58 decision, which marks the start of coach Richard Pitino’s attempt to finally make the NCAA tournament with this group. He has not yet made the NCAA tourney at Minnesota after coming over from Florida International.
Minnesota hopes that it will be a quicker and more active team in the frontcourt, which will lead to better rebounding and interior defense. The Gophers struggled on the glass last season, and that’s something they’ll want to consistently address in this game and in the early weeks of their schedule. It has to be something Pitino fixes if this team wants to go a long way, at least far enough that it can punch a hole in the NCAA tournament ticket it has.
The other thing Minnesota really needs to see this season is strong point guard play. The Gophers have struggled with turnovers in recent seasons. They have not had the one great distributor of the basketball who gets everyone else in the right place offensively. Minnesota needs more fluidity and constancy in its halfcourt offensive sets. It starts with a guard who isn’t just quick, but who makes the right decisions at the right times. That’s going to be something to constantly monitor with the Gophers going forward.
Louisiana-Monroe is playing its first road game of the season. Minnesota won its first home game against UMKC the other night.
Louisiana-Monroe is not dealing with any injuries right now.
Minnesota center Bakary Konate is probable with a foot injury.
What’s The Pick?
The Golden Gophers aren’t expected to do extremely well this season, but they’re certainly going to be in the NCAA tournament hunt. That’s why you see them favored on the NCAA Basketball Odds here. The extent to which this team can make small but steady improvements over the course of the season will determine if it can reach March Madness. You’re probably not going to see Minnesota at its best in November, but Louisiana-Monroe is not a team which will expose Minnesota’s weaknesses. The Gophers should win comfortably, by at least 10 points. Take them with your NCAA Basketball Picks.
NCAA Basketball Pick: Minnesota -9 at 5Dimes