What to watch for in men’s basketball

Six things for Gophers fans to follow in the team’s Tuesday-night exhibition against Bemidji State.

Charlie Armitz

1. Freshman sensation?
Joe Coleman has earned his fair share of praise from Tubby Smith in the weeks leading up to the season. He is the GophersâÄô leading scorer in practice, according to Smith, but can he excel when it counts? ColemanâÄôs jump shot has looked good in early scrimmages, but he isnâÄôt known for his outside shooting.

2. RodneyâÄôs struggles
Smith admitted last week that no player on his roster has had a harder transition to college basketball than Rodney Williams.
He played center in high school and was frequently the most athletic player on the floor. He now plays small forward and has struggled with his outside jump shot since joining the Gophers as well as grasping team defensive concepts.

3. TrevorâÄôs time
A preseason All-Big Ten First Team selection, Trevor Mbakwe likely wonâÄôt play too many minutes against the Beavers. But he said Monday that heâÄôs looking to start the game with a lot of energy to set the tone for MinnesotaâÄôs younger players.
If thatâÄôs the case, watch out.
The senior forward has looked even better this preseason than last season, when he averaged 13.9 points and 10.5 rebounds for the Gophers. He could be the most dominant player in the Big Ten if he stays on the court, according to Smith.

4. Perimeter shooting
Smith hasnâÄôt been shy about hyping up his teamâÄôs shooting ability. He has said on multiple occasions that his 2011-12 squad is the best group of shooters heâÄôs had at Minnesota.
This ironically comes one year after sharpshooter Blake HoffarberâÄôs graduation. But although the Gophers are deep with shooters, they lack a proven perimeter threat at the college level. Tuesday will be the first test for three freshmen with potential from long range âÄî Coleman, Andre Hollins and Oto Osenieks, who redshirted the 2010-11 season.

5. Faster pace
Smith said he wants the Gophers to push the ball in 2011 âÄî so does Bemidji State. TuesdayâÄôs game should feature an up-and-down style of basketball throughout.
With slow pace the norm in the Big Ten, the real indicator of this teamâÄôs tempo will come when it faces its first conference competition.

6. Point guard battle
Julian Welch (ankle) likely wonâÄôt play Tuesday, which sets up an interesting battle between Hollins and sophomore Maverick Ahanmisi.
A strong performance from either wonâÄôt settle anything definitively, as none of the three players appears to have an edge at the moment.