Preview: Minnesota takes on High Point in NIT First Round - Deandre Mathieu Key

Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota has a favorable matchup at home against High Point in the first round of the NIT.

By the Numbers

Minnesota Team High Point
20-13 Record 16-14
Big Ten Conference Big South
8-10 Conf. Record 12-4
1 NIT Seed 8
50 RPI 172
57 KenPom 248

March 18th, 2014 - Williams Arena - Minneapolis, MN

8:15 ET - ESPN3

The Skinny

Minnesota and High Point both enter this matchup disappointed to not be in the big dance. Minnesota lost to Wisconsin in the Big Ten tournament, and their bubble burst on selection sunday, leaving them out of the NCAA tournament. ESPN's Joe Lunardi projected Minnesota as just the second team out of the tourney.

High Point won the Big South regular season title and went into the conference tournament looking for another conference championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Instead, Winthrop defeated High Point 62-60 in just the quarterfinals of the Big South tournament. The Panther's regular season conference title guaranteed them a spot in the NIT.

Minnesota drew a No. 1 seed for the NIT while High Point got an 8 seed. The winner of this opening round matchup will take on the winner of St. Mary's and Utah in the second round of the NIT.

Projected Starting Lineups

Minnesota Position High Point
Deandre Mathieu G Devante Wallace
Andre Hollins G Jorge Perez-Laham
Austin Hollins G Anthony Lindauer
Joey King F Lorenzo Cugini
Elliott Eliason F/C John Brown

Key Players

Deandre Mathieu - Minnesota's transfer point guard has set the tone for the Gophers all year long. He likes to get out and run, as does the rest of the Gopher squad. Mathieu can set the tempo for this game early and put Minnesota in control from the get go. In his last six outings, Mathieu is averaging 14.5 points per game and has five or more assists in each game. He's been Minnesota's go-to gut down the stretch.

Austin Hollins - The Gophers' senior leader will not want to end his career on a loss, especially to High Point. Hollins averaged 18.75 points per game in the four outings prior to the Gophs' BTT loss to Wisconsin. He disappeared a bit against the Badgers, finishing with just five points on 1-6 shooting. Hollins will look to redeem himself and lead Minnesota on an NIT run in his final games as a Gopher.

John Brown - Brown does it all for High Point. He's averaging 19.5 points per game and 7.8 rebounds per game this season. Brown's also an explosive dunker who has been known to make his way onto Sportscenter's top 10 plays. It will be interesting to see how Minnesota matches up with him. Joey King may not have the athleticism to keep up with him and Austin Hollins isn't strong enough. Brown will certainly command some double teams.

Devante Wallace - Wallace is an absolute sharpshooter from deep. He's shooting exactly 50 percent on three pointers this season on a total of 148 3-point attempts, and he averages 12.4 points per game. He also grabs 4.6 rebounds per game and shoots a spectacular 87.3 percent from the free throw stripe. Against a more talented Gopher team, the Panthers will need Brown and Wallace to get hot.

Prediction

Minnesota is simply the more talented and well-rounded team in this one. Minnesota's backcourt with the Hollins duo and Mathieu should be able to score at will on the Panthers. While John Brown creates matchup problems for the Gophers, Elliott Eliason and Mo Walker do the same to the Panthers. High Point doesn't have anyone with enough size to guard the Gophers' big men in the post. Minnesota is too much for High Point, as a 1 seed should be. Gophers 77, Panthers 62

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