Cardinal Basketball

Game Preview: Louisville vs. Minnesota

Photo: USA Today

Photo: USA Today

University Of Minnesota
Head Coach: Richard Pitino, 2nd year @ Minnesota (Career HC Record: 43-27)
Coached the Golden Gophers to the 2014 NIT Championship game, where they defeated Larry Brown’s SMU Mustangs 65-63.
2013-2014 Season: 25-13 (8-10, 7th in the Big 10)
Lost in the quarterfinals of the Big 10 conference tournament to #12 Wisconsin 83-57

Minnesota was named the 1901-1902 National Champions by the Helms Athletic Foundation after a 15-0 season, including wins over Central High School, East High School and current Big 10 rivals Wisconsin and Iowa.

Minnesota leads the all-time series 2-3

Last game: December 20th, 2008, Tubby Smith’s Golden Gophers handed #9 Louisville their second loss of the year in the Stadium Shootout in Glendale, AZ. Minnesota remained golden with the 70-64 win, maintaining a perfect 11-0 record. The Cardinals (7-2) looked weary after crossing the country to play less than 48 hours after a tough 77-68 victory over Mississippi in Cincinnati on Thursday night.
Pitino called it “the trip from hell.” The Cardinals landed in the desert before dawn on Friday morning, and Pitino said there were no buses to meet the team at the airport. “But that doesn’t take away from Minnesota totally outplaying us,” Pitino said. “The trip from hell didn’t stop us.”

Photo: US Press Wire

Photo: US Press Wire

Opening the season with Minnesota will be the tallest task the Cardinals have faced this early in the year since 2010, the debut year of the KFC Yum! Center. Louisville opened with then #16 Butler, fresh off a National Championship runner-up campaign and defeated the Bulldogs 88-73. Since then, Louisville has opened with Tennessee-Martin, Manhattan and College Of Charleston….three inhabitants of Cupcake City. Tonight’s game as you know, is not in the friendly confines of the Yum!; it’s in Puerto Rico.

Minnesota is a team that could have made some noise in the 2014 NCAA Tournament if they had avoided a mid-season slip. Their 3-game losing streak to Nebraska (78-82), Northwestern (54-55) and Purdue (74-77, 3OT) is what sealed their fate with the selection committee.

Minnesota is picked to finish fourth in the Big 10 this year by multiple outlets, an outlook motivated by their four returning starters. The Golden Gophers return their scoring, rebounding and assist leaders who are each seniors: 6-2 guard Andre Hollins (13.6 ppg), 6-11 center Elliott Eliason (6.6 rpg), 5-9 guard DeAndre Mathieu (4.5 apg).

Cardinal Connect TV: Louisville vs. Minnesota Preview from The Cardinal Connect on Vimeo.

This could be the Cardinals biggest bridge year since the 2010-2011 season when they lost Samardo Samuels, Jerry Smith and Edgar Sosa. One might not consider the loss of SVT, Wichita and Ware a big one, but they were each serviceable backups at one point in their careers and it hurts the Cards depth, along with losing Russ and Luke.

There are some things I want to see answered: Can our backcourt live up to the lofty expectations set on it? Is Mangok the future of the 5-spot, or will Anas make the jump over the Australian? And finally, what will we get out of the other freshman? Snider, Johnson, Onuaku and Aaron…that is, whenever Shaqquan is allowed to play. Tonight won’t answer all of these questions, but it will begin building a foundation on which these answers will rise.

And since everyone else is doing it, I may as well go along with it….what will we see from Wayne Blackshear? I’m sick and tired of the promises of, “A New & Improved Wayne”, only to see him play well against pastry puffs and then get held down by the meat of the schedule.

Louisville wins tonight, but it isn’t pretty. I think Minnesota keeps it within 10 for most of the night and Card Nation is kept uneasy from tipoff to final buzzer.

Louisville 75, Minnesota 64

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