The early season tournaments, while fun, can be a bit exhausting. It's hard to keep up. Some tournaments are smaller, four-teamers, while other are larger and perhaps in exotic locations. Minnesota traveled to the nearby United States territory last week for the Puerto Rico Tip-off. While somewhat dizzying, they're fun; oftentimes, you'll see unique match ups on a neutral court.
Now, the Gophers played Temple, Missouri State and Texas Tech in Puerto Rico. (Those opponents' combined record is 4-8.) Tougher competition, but they don't move the needle a ton. (See below of some of the details on the opponents.) With all that, did we learn anything from their travels?
Game 1: Temple 75, Minnesota 70
Temple has one win on the season, and this is it. Granted, they've played three ranked opponents (UNC, Butler and Utah) in addition to the Gophers. Minnesota actually held the lead well into the second half at 56-50, but they couldn't close, and Temple sealed it at the line. (Here's Amelia Rayno's coverage of the loss in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.)
Unfortunately, the Gophers didn't shoot the ball particularly well (38 percent overall), and gave up 12 offensive rebounds, though they didn't completely lose the rebounding edge, which is the huge concern.
Nate Mason led all scorers with 20 points, and he got to the line 12 times. Carlos Morris had 16. More importantly, Bakary Konate played 21 minutes and had 11 points and four rebounds. If he can stay out of foul trouble and play significant minutes, he ought to anchor the frontcourt. Pitino would've probably like to see him hit the glass a bit more, but offensively, he put up some encouraging numbers.
Game 2: Minnesota 74, Missouri State 69
The Gophers won game two in Puerto Rico, but the statistics show a tale of two halves. Minnesota dominated in the first half, shooting 55 percent from the floor, and took a 44-31 lead to halftime. Missouri State outscored Minnesota in the second half (by eight), and the Bears outrebounded the Gophers 40-34, and nabbed 13 offensive rebounds.
Joey King led Minnesota in scoring with 18 points (6-of-7 from three). Carlos Morris added 12 points and seven rebounds.
Game 3: Texas Tech 81, Minnesota 68 (Fifth-Place Game)
Tubby Smith, the former Minnesota coach, is now the coach at Texas Tech, so I suppose you could say he wanted to exact some revenge in this game. Unfortunately, that storyline doesn't move the needle much, and neither did the Gopher performance in the fifth place game.
Texas Tech led essentially the whole game (38:14 of the 40:00 minutes), and won both halves. Carlos Morris and Joey King led all Gophers with 15 points. Charles Buggs was also in double figures with 10.
Texas Tech scored 16 points off Gopher turnovers, and shot the ball well. Minnesota seemingly could never get in the game.
A few things stand out from looking at the numbers: First, Minnesota didn't get killed on the boards in Puerto Rico, although they probably gave up too many offensive rebounds.
Pitino also seems to be getting his arms around the rotation (sort of). Things'll change this season because they have so many new, young pieces. But, Nate Mason, Carlos Morris, Charles Buggs, Joey King and Bakary Konate got larger minutes in PR. Off the bench, Kevin Dorsey, Dupree McBrayer and Jordan Murphy (a trio of freshmen) seem to fill out the second unit.
What's troubling is Gaston Diedhiou, who played limited minutes in Puerto Rico. The hope was that he, along with Bakary Konate, would help anchor the interior defense and make the Gophers competitive on the glass. He's averaging nine minutes per game, and shooting 12 percent from the floor. Granted, it's a small sample size, but the early returns don't look promising. Perhaps, he'll play himself into a larger role as the season progresses.
One win and two losses wasn't ideal for Puerto Rico, but the Gophers will try to move forward. Either way, the preseason concerns are still valid: youth, inexperience, size and depth (particularly in the froncourt).