It's the final countdown! ... or tune-up, as the Gophers take on Concordia-St. Paul on Monday night at 7 p.m. at the Barn. Monday marks Minnesota's second and final exhibition before it takes on Lehigh in the regular-season opener on Friday night.
Here are my 5 Things to Watch for when the Gophers take on Concorida-St. Paul tonight:
Can the Gophers play a full 40 minutes? - Minnesota came out fast and furious in the first half of its 79-57 exhibition win
over Cardinal-Stritch on Friday. But the Gophers were outscored 38-33 in the second half. Richard Pitino’s squad showed they can get up-and-down, but does it have the physical ability and the level of concentration necessary to sustain it for an entire game?
DeAndre Mathieu’s conditioning- Pitino said he thought DeAndre Mathieu
got tired during Friday’s win, and after watching him play in the second half, I’d have to agree. Mathieu is a key piece in Minnesota’s up-tempo offense. He is the most comfortable and capable of pushing the ball up the court. The Gophers look noticeably faster when he’s on the floor. Can he play more than 21 minutes without getting winded? The Gophers sure hope so.
The return of Chris Halvorsen- Former Gophers walk-on and now Golden Bears senior forward Chris Halvorsen makes his return to the Barn on Monday night. Halvorsen will have an opportunity to go up against his former teammates, including former roommate Oto Osenieks. Halvorsen is an interesting story -- he was a 3-star recruit out of high school and committed to Valparaiso, where he played for one season before transferring to Minnesota -- where he played 16 games in two seasons. It will be interesting to see how he looks in extended minutes.
Can Minnesota beat someone on the boards?- The Gophers were out-rebounded 40-34 by the Wolves on Friday. That's right, the Cardinal-Stritch Wolves. Elliott Eliason said it best after the game: “We need to be a better rebounding team if we’re going to compete.” Yes, they do. But can they? It’s going to require a full-team effort.
The battle for the four spot - Oto Osenieks started at power forward on Friday, but Joey King may have outplayed him. King scored 14 points and added five assists, though his one rebound was a concern for a team that needs the production on the glass from its big men. It looks like a battle between these two to see who starts at the four-spot in the season opener against Lehigh on Friday. Monday night could play a big factor in Pitino’s decision four days from now.