First off, if you’ll notice, I’ve changed the title of these posts to “Enjoy the Build” instead of “From the Cheap Seats.” Enjoy the build is something Steve Pikiell has been preaching since this year’s preseason, and I’m going to do my best to stick with that feeling. There will be positives and negatives in every game, but at this point in Pikiell’s ultimate mission, let’s try to look at the positives.
I’m aggravated and that’s a good thing: Rutgers played really, really well. They had a solid game plan and played great defense throughout most of the game. Minnesota is a top 2 or 3 team in the league and Rutgers hung around on the road for most of the contest. They kept the Gophers in check and made them work. However, because the Gophers are really good and Rutgers isn’t close to their level talent wise yet, this wasn’t the kind of game they could win. Unfortunately, it got away from them late. But for most of the game, I was pulling my hair out because it always seemed like Rutgers was right there to get back in it
Mamadou Doucoure has a bright future: Doucoure created a mismatch for Minnesota because of his pull up jumper. He finished with 13 points and hustled against the really talented front line of the Gophers. Give Doucoure another year or two of development, where he learns to defend without fouling, and he will be a beast. Great job by Pikiell and staff to land him and then get him to enroll early.
Corey Sanders’ Technical: Sanders clearly felt the refs were jobbing him and Rutgers all night. With Rutgers still within striking distance down 14, Sanders took the ball to the hoop and made contact, but there wasn’t a foul call. On the next play (I think, I’m going on memory here), Rutgers got called for a foul. Sanders walked by the ref and said something, resulting in a technical. Minnesota made the two techs, and then the two free throws pulling away from Rutgers for good. Sanders didn’t see the floor again. Sanders will learn from this, and the whole team will as well. I bet this becomes a Pikiell teaching moment.
Geo Baker’s Adjustment: Geo Baker played pretty well this game. But he still has some growing to do. It’s clear the length and speed of major conference teams is throwing Geo Baker a bit. He’s still learning that his open looks are open for a split second less than they were against lesser competition. However, Baker still played well defensively, found the open man and managed to score in double digits. The future is bright. But, as tonight showed, it’s still a bit away.