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Game Details:

Who: Oklahoma State
When: 7 p.m. CT
How: TV: BTN; Radio: ESPN 1500

Quick Prediction:

Gophers over Cowboys 81-77

Three Questions:

  1. What will the Gophers do to bounce back defensively?
  2. What will Dupree McBrayer do with increased playing time?
  3. Are we finally on to something with Kevin Dorsey?

As if facing South Dakota and South Dakota state wasn’t enough for the Gophers, the tour of the nation’s greatest state continues on Saturday as Minnesota heads to Sioux Falls to take on the Oklahoma State Cowboys in a neutral site game in The Pentagon.

Oklahoma State

Nickname: Cowboys
Record: 5-3
RPI: 99
Key Players: Phil Forte, Jeff Newbury
Notes: The Cowboys enter the game on a two-game losing streak (Tulsa and Missouri State)

Why Sioux Falls? Well, since the city is sans big university, it’s looking to get on the map as a venue for hosting non-conference games for bigger schools who are too scared to schedule home-and-homes. The Gophers and Cowboys fit that bill perfectly, so instead of worrying about ever having to play a true road game, they’ll drive a few hours to South Dakota and lace ’em up.

The Gophers come into the game already experiencing the growing pains of being super young and inexperienced. They’ve beaten Clemson but lost to South Dakota. They’ve scored 70 or more points for four straight games, but can’t get their defense in order to hold the other team in check. In fact, they have the worst defense in the Big Ten, and it’s not close. Against South Dakota State most recently, they were exposed numerous times both inside and out and were a complete mess when they didn’t have the ball. In short, they have a long ways to go in showing any sort of consistency, but are capable of putting up a lot of points when things are going right.

What does that mean for them against Okie State? Well, they have a chance. As bad as they looked against the Jackrabbits, they’ve also shown a pulse when their shooting gets going. The problem, though, is that they’ve become so reliant on excellent shooting that they’re prone to extended droughts and runs like SDSU had where they can’t seem to stop anything. And if their own shots aren’t falling, things can get out of control quickly. SDSU was a painful example of what can happen when Minnesota’s lack of defensive prowess intersects with a scoring drought. They just can’t win when shooting 37% from the field.

The Cowboys aren’t exactly setting the world on fire either. They’re coming off a two-game home losing streak, which includes losses to Missouri State (who the Gophers beat earlier) and Tulsa. And it’s possible their two leading scorers, Phil Forte and Jeff Newbury, won’t play due to injury. If there was ever a chance for the Gophers to get back on track after two largely unexpected losses, Saturday is it.

For the Gophers, Pitino expressed an effort to give Dupree McBrayer more playing time after he had a nice coming out party in the SDSU game where he scored 13 points and looked pretty confident, while Kevin Dorsey followed up his 15-point game against South Dakota with a 16-point game against SDSU. Along with Nate Mason continuing to pour in the points, the backcourt continues to be in good shape. It’s the defense and frontcourt that continue to be a mess.