Butler is fresh off of a 79-53 victory against the New Orleans Privateers while Minnesota recently fell to the Oklahoma Sooners 62-71.
11/12 vs. Minnesota (Gavitt Games)
2018-19 Record: 22-14 (7th in Big Ten)
NCAA Tournament in 2018-19: 2nd round loss to Michigan State (#2 seed)
Current 2019 KenPom Ranking: 78th
Young and improving head coach Richard Pitino appears to have the Golden Gophers basketball program trending in the right direction in the Big Ten conference.
However, this year’s Minnesota team was dealt a significant blow when leading scorer Amir Coffey (16.6 ppg) elected to stay in the NBA Draft pool–having already graduated senior forward Jordan Murphy (14.4 ppg and 11 rpg).
The Golden Gophers leading scorer is currently redshirt sophomore transfer Marcus Carr (formerly of Pittsburgh), who’s averaging 17.0 ppg, 8.5 rpg, and 7.0 apg so far this season.
He’s been complemented by another transfer, redshirt junior Payton Willis (formerly of Vanderbilt), who has put up 16.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, and 4.5 apg–shooting a blistering 45% from 3 pt. range (9-20 FG 3%).
The Golden Gophers also have impressive sophomore center Daniel Oturu (at 6’10”, 225 pounds) returning, who’s currently averaging 15.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg, and a whopping 4.0 blocks per game.
The Golden Gophers also added Drexel grad transfer, Alihan Demir, who averaged 14.8 ppg and 6.4 rpg as a sophomore last season for the Dragons.
Analysis: Butler will put its 52 consecutive non-conference home win streak to the test early in 2019, as the Golden Gophers represent a formidable foe–led by a young and bright head coach.
Minnesota is an athletic team, who is going to play a physical game and force the Bulldogs “to earn it” defensively–while mucking it up a bit.
The early returns from starting transfers, Carr and Willis, have been very promising–particularly in the scoring department, and Oturu is really a difference maker in the interior on both sides of the court as a potential star in the making.
However, with this game being at the friendly confines of Hinkle Fieldhouse, I still like the Bulldogs’ overall chances–albeit by a slim margin.
Projection: Butler Win.