Who: Clemson Tigers
When: 8 p.m. CT
How: TV: ESPN2; Radio: ESPN 1500
Clemson over the Gophers 75-71
- Can Nate Mason put together back-to-back good games?
- Did Carlos Morris’ 11-minute timeout on the bench against Omaha get his mind right?
- Was Bakary Konate’s 14 and 10 game a mirage?
Yes, the Omaha Mavericks gave the Gophers a run for their money in what was supposed to be a snoozer on Friday afternoon. But with the upset threat dispatched, Minnesota turns its attention to the one major conference opponent that will pass through the doors of Williams Arena in the non-conference season – the Clemson Tigers.
Thanks to the uber-competitive Big Ten/ACC Challenge, the Gophers have been guaranteed at least one major conference opponent for the past decade. However tragic, the Gophers, have been kept at the kids table in terms of opponent caliber for the entire existence of the Challenge. They played Maryland once, way back in 2004. Otherwise, they’ve been stuck with the likes of Florida State, Virginia and Virginia Tech essentially every year. It’s not really fun, but at least it gets the program on ESPN2.
The Gophers actually faced Clemson in 2005, and got handled 90-68 (Dan Coleman led the team with 18 points that game!), but haven’t seen them since. This year, the Tigers are 4-1 and haven’t played anyone besides Rutgers, if you can even call them someone. What does this mean? Well, I’m hoping that Clemson is so shell-shocked by the caliber of opponent they’re facing for the first time this year that the Gophers run circles around them. That’s probably a best case scenario, but a guy can dream.
Instead, it’s more likely that the game will be pretty black and blue; making sure the Tigers’ Jaron Blossomgame doesn’t score 50 points. He’s had a real nice stretch the last three games, scoring 22, 18 and 22, and pulling down 22 rebounds in that same span. He can get to the hoop and attack the basket, but also can step back and shoot threes, a combination that Omaha used effectively to give the Gophers fits. And the Tigers have their own gigantic guy from Africa, 6’10” center, Landy Nnoko, who should be effective at neutralizing Konate.
However, the Gophers unveiled their own brand of inside basketball against Omaha, with Konate scoring a career high 14 points and pulling down 10 boards. He was almost unrecognizable. And Jordan Murphy chipped in 14 and 6 en route to a very efficient 16 minutes. And Nate Mason finally returned, a couple games of being AWOL. Hopefully he’s back.
If nothing else, the Gophers should have a nice look in the mirror against Clemson, who is also trying to rebuild and is on the cusp of big things. They have plenty of guys chip in, and any one of about 5 guys can go off on any night. They haven’t necessarily been consistent, however, and their lone loss was to UMass, so you know they’re not invincible.