The Gophers first game back on the mainland after returning from the Maui Invitational last week is by no means a cupcake. Minnesota battles Florida State tonight at 8:30 at Williams Arena as part of the ACC/Big Ten challenge.
Here are five things to watch for:
Speeding up the Seminoles: Florida State has a major size advantage over the Gophers -- the Seminoles have three 7-foot centers. Gophers head coach Richard Pitino said Minnesota has to make up for that disparity with its speed. Florida State is averaging 16.7 turnovers per game this season. If Minnesota can up that number toward 20 with its full-court press, the Gophers can be competitive throughout.
Did Maui Malik Smith come back to Minnesota?: Gophers senior guard Malik Smith scored 47 points in the Gophers three games in Hawaii. He provided a spark off the bench and proved to be a serious weapon from the outside when Minnesota needed it most. The Gophers will need him to bring that game to Williams Arena against Florida State.
Mo Walker, rust knocker: After a meager showing in his return from his six-game suspension in the Gophers loss to Arkansas, Walker responded wtih a 10-point, seven rebound performance in Minnesota's win over Chaminade in the Gophers Maui finale. Walker admitted he was rusty in Maui, but that should improve with each game as the Gophers continue through their nonconference slate. Minnesota needs a serviceable option at center behind Elliott Eliason. The Gophers need Walker to be that guy.
Getting a significant win: The win over Richmond was nice, and you never know which mid-major victories will look better as the season progresses, but the Gophers will likely need a win over a formidable power conference foe from the nonconference season, not only for their confidence, but for their tournament resume come March. Florida State looks like a solid ACC opponent (beat VCU by 18, lost to Florida and Michigan by a combined three points). A win over the Seminoles could do wonders for Minnesota.
Avoiding a Maui hangover: The Gophers played three games in threes days in Hawaii last week (1-2). Six days and a four-hour time change later, they face the Seminoles. How will Minnesota come out of the gates?