Daquien McNeil Indefinitely Suspended From Minnesota

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 25th, 2014

News broke early Tuesday morning that Minnesota will be without one of their guards during their two-game stretch, and possibly for much longer than that. Sophomore Daquien McNeil has been suspended indefinitely as he is being investigated in a domestic violence case. The guard from Baltimore is averaging 3.3 points and 2.5 assists in 18.8 minutes per game so far this season. Gopher athletic director Norwood Teague said: “We are currently gathering information and cooperating with the authorities. This athletics department values respect and positively impacting the lives of others and will not tolerate any form of domestic assault from its staff or student-athletes.”

Daquien McNeil has been suspended indefinitely by Minnesota. (AP)

Daquien McNeil has been suspended indefinitely by Minnesota. (AP)

This will test the back court depth of Minnesota, leaving more playing time for freshman Nate Mason. Having the combination of Mason and McNeil off the bench allowed the Gophers to incorporate their pressure defense a little more in the early games than they had last season. The team has good overall depth, but this will put a strain on Deandre Mathieu and Andre Hollins. They will now likely have to play more minutes and will have to avoid getting into any foul problems. With this being an indefinite suspension, and in light of how justifiably serious anything involving domestic violence is after the Ray Rice situation in the NFL, it could be expected that the Gophers will be without McNeil’s services for quite a while.

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John Groce May Finally Have His Flexible Backcourt

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on November 25th, 2014

Four games up and four games down for the Illini. Yes, we know it is early but it is really tough not to wonder if this is the best backcourt John Groce has had during his time in Champaign. He was hired from Ohio after a surprising run to the Sweet 16 when the Bobcats’ offense, led by D.J.Cooper, burst through the first two rounds in March by running a high-powered offense with multiple ball-handlers and shooters. Groce’s first two seasons have been sub-part at Illinois but his track record shows that his offensive system can raise havoc, given the right type of talent. That talent includes ball-handling skills from at least three positions on the floor. After three straight games of scoring 100 games, albeit against weaker competition, the Illini offense looks very promising because of five combo guards who can be dangerous with the rock. The rotation includes Ahmad Starks, Aaron Cosby, Rayvonte Rice, Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn. Five of them have been playing at least 20 minutes game and they provide Groce with multiple options.

John Groce has five wings that should be fun to watch this season.

John Groce has five wings that should be fun to watch this season.

Both incoming transfers, Starks and Cosby, shot at least 40% from beyond the arc in their prior lives away from Champaign. Shooting skill doesn’t hurt but it is their ball-handling ability that’s more impressive. Tracy Abrams’ loss for the season could have hurt the Illini because he had a good understanding of the offense after two seasons but Starks and Cosby aren’t too far behind. Let’s not forget that they sat out a whole season after the transfer to Illini and practiced with the team, waiting and chomping at an opportunity to showcase their skills in front of the Orange Krush. Remember last season when Rice was terrific during the first 10 games because he was fully prepared after training with the team? Same goes for Starks and Cosby. Speaking of Rice, he doesn’t have to worry about carrying the offense this season because he is surrounded by shooters. Instead, he can play the wing position and take advantage of backdoor cuts and fast-break opportunities. He was a volume scorer last season which hurt his rhythm during key stretches of the conference season – that doesn’t need to happen this year because Groce can save him for crunch time.

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Michigan State Frontcourt Finding Itself Ahead of Crucial Stretch

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on November 25th, 2014

Michigan State’s narrow victory against Navy in its season opener raised a few serious concerns for Spartans fans, not the least of which was the team’s frontcourt play outside of Branden Dawson. Not only did forwards Matt Costello and Gavin Schilling combine for just 10 points in that win, but the Midshipmen found surprising offensive success near the basket, unearthing countless easy looks on their way to 56 percent shooting inside the arc. After showing some positive flashes in a loss to Duke, however, and playing markedly better against Loyola (Chicago) in its home opener, the Michigan State big men seem to be taking incremental steps in the right direction. On Monday night, in a 79-52 victory over Santa Clara – an evening in which Dawson was sidelined with the flu – those small steps turned into even bigger strides, as Schilling, Costello and Dawson-fill-in Marvin Clark Jr. demonstrated a level of assertiveness and production that was largely missing 10 days ago. With the Spartans’ most crucial week of non-conference play looming just ahead, it’s a sign of improvement that may have come in the nick of time.

Michigan State's Gavin Schilling had a big night against Santa Clara on Monday. (Photo: Mike Carter, Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports)

Michigan State’s Gavin Schilling had a big night against Santa Clara on Monday. (Photo: Mike Carter, Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports)

Tom Izzo mentioned the 6’9’’ Schilling as a possible breakout player before the season began, and he fully looked the part – in terms of production, aggression and physique. After playing somewhat tentatively against Navy, Schilling was at times dominant against the smaller Broncos, scoring 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting and securing 11 rebounds in just 18 minutes on the court – his first career double-double. “He’s so strong and athletic… he’s got a nice jump-hook, he can use both hands,” Izzo said of the big man afterwards. Interestingly, Schilling’s outing was statistically similar to Costello’s night against Loyola, wherein the junior scored a career-high 13 points and notched 11 boards. While he didn’t near that scoring production against Santa Clara, tallying just two points, Costello did log nine rebounds and a pair of blocks, at times demonstrating the same ball-commanding assertiveness he did against the Ramblers (and subsequently earning three trips to the free throw line). More importantly, both he and Schilling were defensive enforcers in the paint, helping limit Santa Clara to a 32 percent two-point shooting mark that would have been even lower if not for a few late buckets. Likewise, the pair combined for 13 of the team’s 21 offensive rebounds, keeping possessions alive and enabling Michigan State to put the game away early. “Costello and Schilling have been bright spots,” Izzo put simply after the game.

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Nebraska’s Loss to Rhode Island Exhibits Some Danger Signs

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 24th, 2014

It’s not as though Nebraska was going to waltz through the season undefeated or anything. The Cornhuskers cracked the preseason Top 25 because of the finishing run they went on last season and because they brought back pretty much every significant player in the rotation other than Ray Gallegos. That said, Saturday’s overtime loss to an unranked Rhode Island team exhibited several potential trouble spots for the Cornhuskers if they don’t immediately fix some things. We outline three of those problem areas below.

Walter Pitchford is off to a slow start this season for Nebraska. (AP)

Walter Pitchford is off to a slow start this season for Nebraska. (AP)

  • Walter Pitchford is Struggling: The former Florida forward emerged as a quality deep shooting big man last season, hitting 41.0 percent on nearly 50 makes from three. He’s off to a 1-of-11 start from behind the arc this season. One of the most difficult things to do if you’re a good shooter whose shots are not falling is to find other ways to contribute. It’s clear that he’s struggling in other facets of his game, but Pitchford could work through his slump by becoming a better presence on the boards and staying out of foul trouble. Right now the offense is pretty much limited to the Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields show, but last year’s team really took off when the secondary options improved. Rhode Island outrebounded Nebraska by 16, and Pitchford’s lack of activity inside is a big part of the reason why. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten Feast Week Primer

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 24th, 2014

Seven Big Ten teams will be competing in tournaments during Feast Week. Some are expected to do well, while others are looking to pick up some quality wins and defy preseason expectations. Here’s a primer for those hoops-obsessed fans who want to schedule some Big Ten basketball watching around their annoying relatives. The fun gets started later today in Maui, New York and Kansas City.

Progressive Legends Classic: (Monday and Tuesday)

Caris LeVert needs to continue to fill up the stat sheet if Michigan wants to win the Legends Classic. (Getty)

Caris LeVert needs to continue to fill up the stat sheet if Michigan wants to win the Legends Classic. (Getty)

  • Teams: Michigan, Oregon, VCU, Villanova
  • Favorite: Villanova
  • TV: ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNU
  • Outlook: Michigan will face its first big-name opponents of the season when the Wolverines take on Oregon in the first game. Should they win, they’ll face off against the winner of the VCU-Villanova game after that. The perimeter trio of Derrick Walton Jr., Zak Irvin and Caris LeVert will have to continue to score at a high level, as the trio is producing a robust 67.5 percent of Michigan’s points thus far this season.
  • Predicted Finish: First if they play Villanova; second if they play VCU.

CBE Hall of Fame Classic: (Monday and Tuesday)

  • Teams: Maryland, Arizona State, Iowa State, Alabama
  • Favorite: Iowa State
  • TV: ESPNU, ESPN2

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Big Ten M5: 11.24.14 Edition

Posted by Eric Clark on November 24th, 2014

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  1. Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell and Shannon Scott shined in Sunday’s demolishing of Sacred Heart. Russell dropped 32 points on the Pioneers, with 30 of them coming in before the 15-minute mark of the second half while Scott set the Ohio State single-game assist record with 16. Russell has lived up to his billing as a premiere scoring option for the Buckeyes, leading the team in scoring in two of its first three games. He did struggle against Marquette this week, scoring only six points and surrendering seven turnovers – but that’s not all that surprising for a freshman’s first test against an opponent from a power conference. Scott has looked fantastic thus far for Ohio State, filling Aaron Craft’s role as distributor with minimal problems. But it’s early – and the Buckeyes will have two games against less-than-spectacular teams before they travel to No. 7 Louisville to take on the Cardinals – so wait until at least December 2 before crowning Russell as the Big Ten’s freshman of the year and Scott as All-Big Ten first team.
  2. Iowa fell flat in the 2K Classic at Madison Square Garden last week, dropping games with Texas and Syracuse. Turnovers were a huge problem for the Hawkeyes as they surrendered a combined 33 against the Longhorns and Orange. Head coach Fran McCaffery still has plenty of confidence in his team as they approach a six-day home stretch where they’ll play Pepperdine, Northern Illinois and Longwood – but Iowa  has to pick up at least one win against North Carolina and Iowa State in early-December to keep its NCAA resume in good shape before Big Ten play starts.
  3. Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon looks like a genius after bringing graduate transfer Richaud Pack in from North Carolina A&T, as Pack has established himself as a veteran leader among the likes of senior Dez Wells and junior Jake Layman. According to Roman Stubbs of The Washington Post, Pack has undertaken the role as a defensive stopper for the Terrapins, regularly guarding the opponent’s most prolific scorer. Maryland faces its first real test of the 2014-15 season tonight as they host Arizona State, a team that has struggled offensively so far – they squeaked by Bethune-Cookman by a score of 49-39 last week, and the Sun Devils currently rank 119th in the country in offensive efficiency. No matter Arizona State’s track record, Monday marks Pack and freshman Melo Trimble’s first taste of a power conference foe as Terrapins, so the game will be worth keeping an eye on.
  4. Nebraska fell to Rhode Island on Saturday, a game in which the Huskers were thoroughly dominated on the boards – Rhode Island grabbed 49 rebounds to Nebraska’s 36. Head coach Tim Miles expressed his concern for his team’s rebounding after their 19-point season-opening win over Northern Kentucky, but the Huskers have yet to show improvement as they currently rank 319th in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage (23%). The Huskers face Nebraska-Omaha on Tuesday, which may look like a mismatch to the untrained eye – but the Mavericks are coming off of an eight-point victory over Marquette and currently rank 25th in offensive rebounding percentage (41.4%). It is absolutely crucial that Nebraska takes a step in the right direction on Tuesday, but this isn’t the type of problem that can be solved in one game.
  5. D.J. Newbill was a workhorse for Penn State in the Charleston Classic, scoring 83 points in three games including 22 in the Nittany Lions’ 63-61 win over USC on Sunday. Newbill is tied for the conference lead in scoring with Terran Petteway, as both are averaging 24 points per contest. Newbill has been particularly good from long range early on, going 14-for-27 from the three-point line. It’s no surprise that he’s carrying Penn State so far this season, but freshman Shep Garner’s play has been. Garner is only playing 66.7 percent of his team’s minutes compared to Newbill’s 93.3 percent, but Garner’s offensive rating is 2.2 points higher. Garner’s shooting 46.4 percent from the three-point line, making up for junior Brandon Taylor’s abysmal 6-for-25 line from long range. Penn State faces teams ranked in the 100’s of Pomeroy’s rankings in their next five contests before facing No. 57 George Washington, so it’s tough to tell if Penn State will be able to make any noise in Big Ten play just yet.
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Big Ten M5: 11.21.14 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso & Brendan Brody on November 21st, 2014

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  1. Anyone who watched the Wisconsin game on Wednesday night saw what could have been the dunk of the season from Wisconsin-Green Bay guard Keifer Sykes. Sykes almost went full “Deandre Jordan on Brandon Knight” in his missed dunk attempt over preseason All-American Frank Kaminsky, causing the preseason All-American to take to Twitter after the game to talk about how the dunk “would have ruined my confidence as a basketball player.” This led to a very lighthearted exchange between the two players that you can read here. It’s nice to see two great players who both hail from Chicago being supportive and recognizing the skills that each of them possesses.
  2. Many of us here at the microsite had written off Indiana after a tumultuous offseason, but after their 74-68 win over #22 SMU in Bloomington last night, we may need to reevaluate this group. Freshman sensation James Blackmon Jr. led the way with 26 points. This game also marked the return of three players from their suspensions — Troy Williams, Stanford Robinson, and Emmett Holt. What once looked like a bleak future for Tom Crean may be turning brighter thanks to the outstanding play of Blackmon Jr. — who has now proven he can play at a high level against nationally relevant teams. The freshman may singlehandedly pull the Hoosiers from the valley it found itself in just a couple weeks back.
  3. In the midst of all the holiday tournaments going on either this weekend and next week, Michigan State announced that it will be part of the Wooden Legacy tournament next season. The other headliner in the field will be Arizona. Providence and Boise State also will be playing in Anaheim along with Boston College, Evansville, Santa Clara, and UC Irvine. The Spartans will lose two of their top three players from this year’s squad, but should return Denzel Valentine and Matt Costello next season.
  4. It’s not always going to be pretty basketball, but if you’re into watching a player just go completely “Kobe” and chuck shot after shot, look no further than Penn State and D.J. Newbill. The prolific scorer put up 35 points on 33 shots in the Nittany Lions’ 97-106 double-overtime loss to Charlotte. Newbill had a chance to score the game winner with an open lane to the basket in the dwindling seconds of the first overtime, but it was blocked by Charlotte. The 35-point total was the most for a Penn State player since 1995, but without many other options on this team — especially with Tim Frazier graduated — look for more nights like these from Newbill. It’ll be entertaining if nothing else.
  5. Maryland also struggled in its quest to stay undefeated, yet managed to pull away from Fordham to notch a win on Thursday night. Unlike Northwestern, their struggles were on the offensive end. This is what senior leader Dez Wells wanted however, as he spoke to wanting to see how the young team handled things when they weren’t hitting shots. They ended up winning this one on the defensive end, holding the Rams to only eight free throw attempts and to 30.6 percent shooting from the field. A game like this should help them, especially once conference play hits. They now know that they can still get a win even if things aren’t clicking on the offensive end of the court.
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Three Keys for Iowa to Beat Texas Tonight

Posted by Alex Moscoso on November 20th, 2014

One of the Thursday night headliners will take place in Madison Square Garden where Iowa faces #10 Texas in the 2K Sports Classic. The Hawkeyes have gotten off to an impressive start by beating both their two opponents by an average of 32.5 points per game, but after last year’s late-season tanking, many are hesitant to jump back on the Iowa bandwagon. Fran McCaffery‘s squad is without question a talented bunch, so the Longhorns present a November opportunity to gain back some of that trust. An win Thursday night means the Hawkeyes would have a top 10 win before December, something they couldn’t muster at all last season. Here are three keys to the game that Iowa will need to address if they’re going to pull off the upset.

Adam Woodbury will look to use his size against Texas's big frontcourt on Thursday night

Adam Woodbury will look to use his size against Texas’s big frontcourt on Thursday night

  • Use their size. It won’t be very often this season that Texas looks across the floor and sees a team that has more size than them, but that will be the case tonight against Iowa. Three of the Longhorns’ starters are listed at 6’8”, 6’9”, and 6’9”, while the Hawkeyes have three starters at 6’9”, 6’9”, and 7’1”. Iowa will need to use its size advantage in the frontcourt — especially with Adam Woodbury — to defend under the basket. Through two games, 35.6 percent of Texas’ total shots have come at the rim, and they have been extremely effective from this spot (76.2% FG). The Hawkeyes need to challenge every shot and dare the Longhorns to hit that same rate over the arms of their big guys.

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Penn State Outlook in the Charleston Classic

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 20th, 2014

Penn State heads to South Carolina this weekend to play in the Charleston Classic. The eight-team field doesn’t have any Top 25 teams attending, but it will give the Nittany Lions a few chances to notch wins that could end up being significant if they want to make a postseason tournament. Of course which team they play will be determined by how the bracket works out, but regardless of their opponents, one has to look no further than what Nebraska did last season as to how a holiday tournament like this can help teams figure things out. Despite the fact that they Cornhuskers only won one of three games in this event last season, Nebraska played eventual NCAA Tournament team UMass close and got a decent win over Georgia. Here’s a brief look at what Penn State has in store for them in this season’s edition.

Penn State will need big games from DJ Newbill this weekend in the Charleston Classic. (GoPSUsports.com)

Penn State will need big games from DJ Newbill this weekend in the Charleston Classic. (GoPSUsports.com)

Their first round opponent is Charlotte, a team that could contend for the Conference USA crown along with the likes of Louisiana Tech and UTEP. Both teams look to be structured similarly in terms of their size and makeup. Penn State will need to keep Mike Thorne Jr and Willie Clayton off of the boards, as the pair combined for 23 rebounds in their first game of the season, a win over Elon. Ross Travis and Brandon Taylor will need to keep them in check, especially to keep Clayton from giving the 49ers extra possessions. Florida transfer Braxton Ogbueze is Charlotte’s point guard, which will be a nice test for freshman Shep Garner. Penn State should win this one, but it will be a quality match-up.

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Could Indiana Upset SMU Tonight?

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 20th, 2014

Indiana was routinely called to task last season (mainly by Dan Dakich) for playing an underwhelming non-conference schedule. There was some evidence that loading up on cupcakes seemed to hurt the Hoosiers, as they clearly weren’t ready for the arduous nature of the Big Ten slate once conference play started. This season Tom Crean’s team is challenging itself by taking on SMU tonight in Assembly Hall. The Mustangs are coming off a beatdown at the hands of Gonzaga in Spokane, but bring excellent size and experience to Bloomington.

Yogi Ferrell has to run the show and score frequently for Indiana to improve this season. (Darron Cummings, AP)

Yogi Ferrell needs to get the better of SMU’s Nic Moore in the point guard battle on tonight. (Getty)

Here’s how the Hoosiers can get a quality non-conference win tonight:

  • Keep up the Hot Three-Point Shooting: The Hoosiers have started the season shooting the deep ball at an insane 21-of-38 clip (55.3%). Gonzaga overwhelmed SMU on Monday night with size in its 72-56 win, but the Zags also hit 10 three-pointers to create some distance. Indiana has similar weaponry on the perimeter with its trio of Yogi Ferrell, James Blackmon Jr., and Robert Johnson, and will have to get by with what they’ve been doing in their first two wins– primarily spreading the floor with shooters, using the drive-and-kick game, and getting out in transition. As always with Indiana, turnovers will be a key. If the Hoosiers get too sloppy, SMU has the ability to take advantage of those opportunities.

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Three Thoughts on Ohio State’s Win Over Marquette

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 19th, 2014

Ohio State cruised to a 74-63 win over Marquette on Tuesday night in a game that wasn’t quite that close. It doesn’t take long to see that Thad Matta’s team is clearly a different team stylistically than last year’s unit, as the Buckeyes played differently on both the defensive and offensive ends of the floor. With an abundance of shooters at its disposal, Ohio State got out in transition and shot the ball very well from the perimeter (53.3% from three). The defense was also a much different look from the Aaron Craft-led pressure man-to-man of the past several years. Here are some other quick observations from the win.

Thad Matta has made tweaked his system a bit as 2014-15 has started. (AP)

Thad Matta has tweaked his system a bit as this season has started. (AP)

  • Shannon Scott Looks Comfortable as the Primary Ball-handler: The senior has started off passing the ball on fire, as he’s hit double figures in assists in both Ohio State games — good for an astonishing 56.0 percent assist rate. Against Marquette, the Buckeyes showed tremendous spacing all night, making things very easy for Scott to simply pick his options to find the open man. Without having to share the point guard spot this season, he finally looks like he’s free to be himself out there. He’s never been a knock-down shooter, but he’s quick and can get to the basket. He and Craft were great together defensively, but they weren’t the best offensive options on the other end of the floor. Now with only one point guard to direct things, there is room for a shooter like D’Angelo Russell or Kam Williams for Scott to find on his drive-and-kicks.

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Big Ten M5: 11.19.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 19th, 2014

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  1. Michigan will have an advantage on the perimeter with the trio of Caris LeVert, Zak Irvin, and Derrick Walton Jr in many of the games it plays this season. The question marks mainly lie with the Wolverines’ inside play, but overlooked forward Max Bielfeldt could provide some answers. Bielfeldt only had 38 career points before Michigan’s game against Bucknell on Monday night, but after not even making an appearance in the team’s opening game, he went off for 18 points. Bielfeldt has never had much of a chance other than some spot cameos throughout his career, but if he can continue to consistently provide scoring in the post, then the Wolverines’ prospects for another deep NCAA Tournament run just got much better.
  2. Anthony Clemmons became something of a forgotten man last season, as the sophomore struggled to find court time even with Iowa playing a bunch of players. He has cracked this year’s starting lineup for the 2-0 Hawkeyes, however, by bringing a newfound confidence in his outside shot. After going only 6-of-16 through all of last season, Clemmons has already hit 5-of-6 from behind the arc and is averaging 11.5 points per game. His hustle plays are what’s keeping him in the lineup, though, as Fran McCaffery noted that “it’s infectious to the rest of the team.” Iowa and Clemmons will be tested going up against Texas and standout guard Isaiah Taylor on Thursday night in Madison Square Garden.
  3. Maryland has gotten off to a 2-0 start in its first season in the B1G, and the Terrapins are doing so with heavy contributions from their freshmen class. In their Monday night win over Central Connecticut State, Melo Trimble, Dion Wiley, and Michel Cekovsky all performed well. Trimble surprisingly led the team in rebounds with eight; Cekovsky had three blocks in 18 minutes; and Wiley managed to score 10 points and snag five rebounds in 19 minutes of action. Many freshmen in the league have come in and made an impact, but Maryland is a team that definitely needs big support from their first-year players if they hope to remain competitive with the mid-tier of the league in their first B1G season.
  4. Among the takeaways from Indiana‘s win over Texas Southern on Monday night was the fact that certain players are stepping into bigger roles and contributing in a number of different ways. Freshman Robert Johnson is at the top of that list, as he’s played with a level of maturity that belies his first-year status. Johnson is a year older than the typical college freshman due to a reclassification during his junior year of high school. While it’s doubtful he’ll sustain a stat line of 18.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG and 5.5 APG all season, he’s shown that Tom Crean did valuable work in getting Johnson and fellow freshman James Blackmon Jr. into an Indiana uniform.
  5. Fresh off of a disappointing loss in its season opener against Louisville, Minnesota has the chance to get a needed confidence boost in the form of three home games in five days. These contests are all against teams that the Gophers should beat, but the quick turnaround between them could really test their depth. Minnesota passed its first test on Tuesday night against Western Kentucky, and head coach Richard Pitino should have a chance over the next few nights to give his newcomers a great chance to get comfortable in his defensive system.
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