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Previewing tommorrow's Minnesota/Arkansas clash at Williams Arena

Minnesota and Arkansas are both undefeated this year so one team will lose their first game of the season tomorrow night in Williams Arena.

The Storyline

Minnesota is 4-0 and has held double figure leads in every game including versus St. John’s who the Gophers beat last Friday 92-86.  Arkansas is 3-0 but hasn’t played a major conference team yet.  They have beaten UT-Arlington (like Minnesota did), Southern Illinois (who Minnesota plays Friday), and Fort Wayne.

The Razorbacks struggled at times with Fort Wayne and they needed a 15-4 run to end the game against UT-Arlington to record a 71-67 win.  The Gophers were down to UT-Arlington by six at the half but dominated the second half on their way to an 84-67 victory.

SEC Preseason Player of the Year Moses Kingsley, a 6-foot-10 230 pound senior from Nigeria, has not got off to the offensive start he was hoping for.  Kingsley is averaging 9.7 points and 6.3 rebounds with 16 blocks in 80 total minutes.  Moses Kingsley and Gopher center Reggie Lynch are two of the nation’s top shot blockers (Lynch has 15 blocks in 86 minutes). Kingsley is projected as a late first round, high second round pick.

Minnesota freshman Amir Coffey was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week today after scoring in double figures in all three games last week.  Coffey’s highlight was his 30 point showing in the Friday win over St. John’s.

Minnesota and Arkansas are playing for the fifth time.  The only Gopher win came in 1985. The most recent game was a Razorback victory on a holiday event while the most memorable game was in Maui in 1991 when Arkansas beat the Gophers 92-83. Lee Mayberry scored 20 with seven assists while Oliver Miller had a game high 23 points with 17 boards. Randy Carter led the Gophs with 19 points and 11 boards.

The Numbers

A year ago Kingsley averaged 16 points and 9.3 rebounds shooting 55 percent from the field in 30 minutes a game.  This year he’s averaged 9.7 points and 6.3 rebounds shooting 42 percent from the field.  Six-foot-3 guard Dusty Hannahs, a second team preseason All-SEC talent, is one of the nation’s better shooters.  He’s got his nearly 18 a game by shooting 42 percent from the arc which is close to his 43 percent from the arc last season.

The Mike Anderson recruiting class of 2016 has stepped up so far.  Six-foot-3 junior college transfer point guard Jaylen Barford had high expectations and his dozen points and 50 percent shooting through three games has lived up to expectations. Fellow juco transfer Daryl Macon, another 6-foto-3 guard, has scored his 10.7 a game by hitting 48 percent of his attempts and 6 of 14 treys.

When it comes to the season long team numbers for Arkansas the first thing that grabs your attention is the 24 of 54 shooting at the arc.  On the other side of things the Razorbacks are nearly dead even on the glass with their opponents this year which is alarming considering that they’ve played all low/mid major opponents.  Like St. John’s, Arkansas comes into Williams Arena having shot very well at the arc, but not having play a road game yet nor having played a major conference opponent yet.

The Gophers are now shooting 31.2 percent from the arc on the season on 80 attempts which means the numbers were boosted last Friday.  The number Gopher fans should hope for is 33 percent at the arc and the numbers are getting closer to that.  The Gophers are a plus five on the glass each game which is a huge improvement from last year, they are holding opponents to 35.6 percent shooting through the four games, and four Gophers are averaging in double figures (Coffey, Dupree McBrayer, Nate Mason, and Jordan Murphy).

Minnesota and Arkansas have both beaten Texas Arlington (Minnesota 84-67, Arkansas 71-67).  Against a common opponent what were some numbers that stood out? 

·      The shooting percentages for UT-Arlington were remarkably similar, the Mavs just got to the foul line way more against Minnesota than Arkansas (23 to 12).  Minnesota and Arkansas both shot poorly at the arc and from the field (between 39.5 and 41.5 percent for both) and both took numbers foul shots against the Sun Belt opponent.

·      Minnesota dominated the glass 47-32 where as Arkansas was even with UT-Arlington for the most part (35-34). 

·      Minnesota only had eight turnovers while Arkansas had 14.

·      It’s amazing how similar the numbers of this game were across the board for UT-Arlington in both games and then from Arkansas/Minnesota.  Big differences were rebounding and turnovers.

The Match-Ups

The Gophers start three 6-foot-3 guards, 6-foot-8 225 pound Colorado transfer Dustin Thomas, and 6-foot-10 Kingsley.  That’s two seniors and three transfers.  The main difference in the starting line-ups is Amir Coffey’s 6-foot-8 size and Dupree McBrayer’s 6-foot-5 size against the 6-foot-3 size of the Razorback wings.

Kingsley is a potential first round draft pick because he has legit range on his jumper, excellent shot blocking numbers, and he’s been a solid rebounder although his numbers are down on the glass so far (there has been some foul trouble).  Kingsley will be about an inch and a half bigger than Lynch but the scouting report on Kinglsey is that he has trouble scoring against size in traffic which bodes well for the Gophers because of Reggie.  Also, Arkansas needs scoring numbers from Kingsley, Minnesota needs boards, blocks, and open finishes from Lynch so the pressure is on Moses.

Minnesota will be deeper up front with Murphy and Eric Curry playing alongside Lynch.  Dustin Thomas has been okay so far this year but after him the Razorbacks are getting little from 265 pound junior Trey Thompson and 6-foot-8, 2-5 pound junior college transfer Arlando Cook.  The keys for the bigs are: Minnesota needs Murphy and Lynch to stay out of foul trouble (Reggie has been excellent with this the last two games while Murphy sat out 18.5 first half minutes last Friday) while Arkansas has to rebound way better.

Amir Coffey’s big challenge Tuesday will be to limit Dusty Hannahs.  Between Coffey and Akeem Springs, they will be best suited to defend one of the SEC’s best scorers.  Hannahs is a deadly shooter at the arc but he also is very good attacking and hitting crafty floaters and leaners.  Springs physical frame will be needed to chase while Coffey’s length will be important too.

Coffey can defend, just ask five star Duke commit Gary Trent Jr about him.  Coffey shut Trent down in a big way in both contests last year (including the state semi-final) as Trent shot a very low percentage on jumpers because of the Amir length.  The Gophers need that length from Amir tomorrow, and the open floor baskets will help too.

Jaylen Barford was the top scorer in junior college basketball last year at over 26 a game and he was first team juco All American.  Barford versus Nate Mason is the other big match-up to see.  Barford is coming off a six turnover game against Arlington where he, the point guard, took more shots than any of his teammates.  The less organized the offense the better for the Gophers because they thrive in the open floor push that is started by turnovers and long jumper misses. On the other hand the Gophers have to be able to handle the full court trapping style of Arkansas.  Minnesota had some issues handling pressure against Arlington at first but improved quickly.  Arkansas will be an entirely different animal when it comes to taking care of the ball the full length of the floor. 

Barford has good numbers scoring this year but he’s also missed long and turned the ball over a lot.  As long as Mason hits with solid numbers and keeps the assist to turnover ratio numbers where they have been, the Gophers will be in good shape.

A guy to watch for Arkansas is Anton Beard, a six foot junior guard off the bench.  He has not been the same since being suspended for part of last year but he is coming off a 12 point game in 18 minutes.  He was a huge spark off the Arkansas bench as a freshmen.

Prediction

I feel very good about a Gopher win tomorrow and it’s not just because they played Arlington better.  My reasons are several:  1) home game at Williams Arena, 2) the University is offering students a chance to go to the game for free so the building should be as wild as it’s been this year, 3) Minnesota is a much better rebounding team, 4) Arkansas has not played a major conference team yet and have a point guard that is new to D1 ball who tries to over playmake at times, 5) Kingsley has not been playing that well, and 6) Arkansas has been turning the ball over a lot and that should make the Gopher fans excited for their open floor running game.

What Arkansas has on their side is that they are a much better shooting team and they are a more experienced team with all of their rotation currently being juniors and seniors.  Hannahs is coming off a bad shooting game so he will be extra locked in and if Kingsley can put fouls on Lynch the game could really open up for Arkansas.

I feel like Minnesota has a two score edge here and I feel this game will be way more physical than the past four meaning less scoring.

Minnesota 75 Arkansas 71


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