After two not-so-great performances in its two exhibition games, Minnesota’s men’s basketball team is looking to open its 111th season with just one thing ” a win.
The Gophers start their campaign for their second consecutive NCAA tournament berth at 6 tonight at Williams Arena against North Dakota State.
The Bison are in their third year of a five-year NCAA reclassification from Division II to Division I, and that, in part, makes them a threat.
“This is a great opportunity for them,” coach Dan Monson said. “We’ve got everything to lose and nothing to gain, so to speak.”
For Minnesota to be successful tonight and throughout the season, the Gophers will need solid production from their trio of senior guards Adam Boone, Maurice Hargrow and Vincent Grier.
In the two exhibition games, Boone averaged 17.5 points per game, Hargrow 14.5 and Grier 17.5. But those three know the whole season doesn’t hinge on their play.
“I think (the team is) comfortable with us being the bulk of the offense,” Hargrow said. “But you can’t count out Dan Coleman, you can’t count out Spencer Tollackson.
“There’s going to be nights when us three may be a little rusty, and we’re going to need somebody to step up and win the game for us. That’s what a team is for.”
Minnesota will also be looking for contributions from its younger players as well.
With Ryan Saunders out because of injury and Rico Tucker still on academic lockdown, the Gophers are thin at guard.
Relieving them, for the first few games at least, will be freshmen Brandon Smith and Jamal Abu-Shamala, but they will have to play better than regular freshmen.
“I’m taking an early step ahead, and I think that’s good,” Smith said. “Because it will prepare (me) for next year and the years to come.
“Like coach always says, he wants me to play like a sophomore, not a freshman.”