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Enjoying the Build: 4 Thoughts on Minnesota

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Minnesota Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

Rutgers hung around for a while, but the Gophers got it going. They outlasted and then dropped Rutgers 88-70.

It Says Enjoying the Build In the Title: This is a personal thought, but when your team gets run out of the building late, this is probably the best time to write about it. Last year, I figured this was pretty much a 4 to 5 year rebuild. That meant there were going to be games like the awesome Ohio State win and games like today. I am also trying really hard not to let defeats like this really get me down (though Fordham really bugged me). So, the four thoughts in these types of games are going to be more positive unless something really sticks out. If that bothers you and you want me to be hard on the team—or at harder on the team than I am, sorry. Just wanted to let you know. I will be fair, but I’m not going to rip them every which way until Sunday unless they truly deserve it.

Hope Caleb is Okay: As Aaron noted, the game really turned on Caleb McConnell’s injury. McConnell was getting into the lane, creating shots and playing really good defense. He also took a lot of pressure off of Geo Baker. Had McConnell stayed in, Pitino was going to have to adjust to someone he probably didn’t expect to have to adjust to. At the same time, if MConnell is out long term it’s going to be hell on Geo Baker. There was a stretch in this game where Minnesota was able to maintain and extend the lead where there wasn’t a point guard on the floor. McConnell is really starting to turn into a piece and maybe will even be able to take some pressure off Paul Mulcahy next season early. His health is important.

Minnesota Bottled up Montez Mathis and Geo Baker: Both Baker and Mathis got their points, but they weren’t impactful. The Gophers did a great job in the first half keeping both players in check and frustrate them. That’s evidenced by Mathis’ getting thrown out (I didn’t see the play to be honest, just heard it on the radio) and Baker missing both free throws he got late. Rutgers needs multiple players rolling and someone to hit some threes to win with any consistency. Especially when the defense isn’t there, as it wasn’t today. They hung around for a while, but when a final run was needed Mathis and Baker should have taken over. Instead if was Jordan Murphy and Amir Coffey.

The Big Men Are Producing: Myles Johnson and Shaq Carter are getting their points. Johnson had his best game yet and it came against a good Big Ten frontline. Carter has great hands and was making lay-ups with no problem until the Gophers pushed him further out away from the basket. When the game gets away from you like today’s did, fans need to start looking for production. Rutgers hasn’t had a frontline that can score in a long, long time. The development that is happening before our eyes is going to get better as the season goes along. And next year, when Mulcahy can get them the ball in even better positions? Watch out.