Opponent: University of Louisville (#8)
Date / Time: Friday, November 14th - 6:30pm ET
Location: USCG Air Station Borinquen, Aguadilla, Puerto Rico; Armed Forces Classic
Coming off of an NIT Championship in Richard Pitino's first season, the Minnesota Golden Gophers will immediately get thrown into the fire to open the season, as Richard Pitino will face off against a familiar face; his father, Louisville Cardinals Head Coach Rick Pitino. It isn't, by any means, rare for a son to follow in his father's footsteps and take on the same career. What is rare is when father and son face off against each other. Aside from that very obvious storyline, however, we have two very good teams facing off.
Although they lost last year's second leading scorer, Austin Hollins, to graduation, Minnesota still has a lot of nice pieces as they look to build upon last year's NIT Championship. Returning scorer Andre Hollins returns, as does leading rebounder Elliott Eliason. Depth is a bit of a concern for the Gophers, but they have a fair amount of talent coming in, recruiting-wise. Carlos Morris, for example, may be able to step up and be a great sixth man, or even crack the starting lineup. For even more on the Gophers, be sure to read our season preview.
Obviously, any discussion about the Louisville Cardinals starts with their dynamic returning star Montrezl Harrell. In addition to being voted a Second Team All-American by USA Today, Harrell also is the third most likely player to win Associated Press Player of the Year, according to betting site Bovada. It is easy to see why Harrell is thought so highly of. He averaged 14.0 points and 8.4 rebounds per game last season for the Cardinals. In addition to Harrell, point guard Chris Jones also returns for the Cardinals. Jones averages 10.2 points per game last season. They also have a nice recruiting class that can come in and make up for the losses of Russ Smith and Luke Hancock.
Any time you open the season against a top 10 team on a neutral floor, you never know what to expect. I think Minnesota has a good team, but I don't think they're going to be able to match up well with Harrell, and I also am skeptical about the Gophers' depth and scoring options outside of Andre Hollins. It will still be good national recognition for the Gophers to show the country what they are made of after last year's NIT Championship. Sometimes you can impress people even in losses.