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Montana at Minnesota Basketball Preview

Pitino's next test comes against a Grizzlies team that has won 25 games the last two seasons.

Andy Lyons

Montana (0-0, 0-0) at Minnesota (1-0, 0-0)
8:00 PM EST
TV: None
Line: Minnesota -12
Over/Under: n/a
Series Record: Minnesota 3-1
Last Meeting
: Montana 72-65 (2006)
Blog Representation: the Daily Gopher

Richard Pitino's second game as the head coach of Minnesota will be against the Montana Grizzlies out of the Big Sky. Montana has gone 25-7 the last two years and was knocked out of the second (first) round of the NCAA Tournament in a 34-81 laugher against Syrcause. This will be the Grizzlies first game of the year.

Last time Montana faced off against Minnesota they actually pulled off a 72-65 win in the second to last game of Dan Monson's tenure here, giving way to Jim Molinari for the rest of the year and then Tubby Smith in 2007. It was also Wayne Tinkle's first season as the head coach at Montana. Since then Tinkle has taken Montana to the NCAA Tournament three times and has won at least 20 games his last four seasons.

The Grizzlies will lose two of their top scorers in Will Cherry and Mathias Ward, but will return wing Kareem Jamar. Jamar averaged 14.2 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game last year and is capable of shooting from anywhere on the court. If the Gophers can slow down Jamar then it could be smooth sailing as besides Jordan Gregory and Spencer Coleman, there's not much experience here.

Minnesota is coming off of an opener that saw the Hollins brothers have a strong night, while center Elliot Eliason had a dominating performance on the glass with 17 rebounds. Minnesota will look to do more of the same, with Eliason being utilized down low while they try to spread the court and light it up from all over. Versus Lehigh Minnesota was able to shoot at an effective enough rate and spread the ball around, though rebounding outside of Eliason could stand to improve a bit.

Montana is definitely a formidable mid-major to square off against, but the team will have to replace quite a bit of talent and in their first game will need to piece it together quickly if they want to pull off the upset. Minnesota's opener showed signs of strong play down low and a solid performance from Deandre Mathieu passing the ball around. We already know that the Hollins brothers are talented enough to provide a core to build on, if Pitino can get solid play from the rest of his lineup than Minnesota will become a considerably better team than expected.

It's still early but Minnesota has the players to hold off an upset minded Montana team. The game should be more competitive than the opener versus Lehigh but it's still a game the Gophers should pull off.