I couldn't go to the game against UMD, so for some reason that I'm not sure about but probably has to do with zero willpower and being kind of an idiot, I broke down and ordered BTN Plus for the month just so I could watch the game. Or sort of watch the game. I also had to pay attention to my damn wiener kids, try to see some of the Cincy/Cleveland game because gambling, and we were watching American Horror Story on the big tv. So I would say I saw 60% of the game. Here are 60% of my thoughts.
1. I think I like Carlos Morris. He's a little bit herky-jerky offensively, but it's also in a smooth way if that makes any sense at all. Think Vincent Grier or Shawn Marion. He led the team with 23 points last night and was super aggressive offensively looking for his shot. The 0-4 three point calls into question his jumper, which was already in question, and dominating less athletic, less skilled players is basically what he did in JuCo so this game was tailor made for him, but I still mostly liked what I saw. On the offensive side of the ball, that is. Defensively.......
2. The team defense was absolutely horrendous. UMD should not score nearly 70 points on 45.5% shooting against this team. But they did. The defense was brutal in every single way. Players were getting beat to the rim, the rotations were slow, often Gopher defenders were completely out of position (this happened to Morris at least 70 times last night, which means he's going to make me insane this year), and at times UMD was even in better rebounding position when they in no way should have been. The Gophers got away with it because they were bigger, stronger, faster, better, and pretty much outclassed UMD in every way, but both the effort and technical parts of defense were sorely lacking, and it wasn't hard to imagine how Iowa State (allegedly) put up 100 on them in that secret (not secret) scrimmage. Or to imagine Louisville blowing their doors off. I am 44% less excited for that game now.
3. Daquein McNeil looks legit. McNeil led both teams in scoring in the big intrasquad scrimmage and he looked the part again last night, coming off the bench to score 15 points on 6-7 shooting. Hard to believe a FIU recruit who tagged along with Richard Pitino because he needed to make sure he filled his roster now looks like a bona fide weapon off the bench in the Big Ten. But forget the shooting for a minute, there was a moment towards the end of the game which was more important. The Gophers had their last five in to wrap up the game and McNeil ended up at point guard since Nate Mason was hurt and didn't play. He took the ball, dribbled it up with a distinct swagger, made a move and drove right by his man and then dished off when help came for a Josh Martin dunk. It was beautiful, and if he's that confident, I'm that confident.
4. Elliott Eliason is still who he is. If you had hoped Eliason would develop a hook shot or a good drop step or a step back jumper or some kind of pet move it appears, based solely on last night, that you're out of luck. I'm not complaining. He brings some legit rim protection and is a high end rebounder and fills an absolutely necessary role for a Big Ten team and does it well so no complaints. I wondered if we'd see a little more going into his last year. Hopefully we still do.
5. Josh Martin is going to be your energy guy. You could probably already tell from his spastic nature on twitter and in interviews, but Martin is bundle of energy. He will also bring the house down a few times with some spectacular dunks, as the scouting reports touting his jumping and athleticism were not exaggerating. He completely outclassed UMD in those regards and was able to get a bunch of dunks, and his baseline cuts are going to become a fixture this year, but he didn't show much polish (didn't have to) so I'm curious to see what kind of game he can bring against a more legit opponent. Also, I guarantee every other Big Ten fan base is going to hate him by the end of his four years.
6. Offensive aggressiveness overall was good. Dre and Dre were looking to attack the rim, and Joey King was always looking for a shot, not to mention Carlos Morris pretty clearly thinks he can score any time he has the ball and I mean that in a good way. I'm still worried about Dre Hollins and hope that he continues looking to drive once they start playing the real teams, but last night was encouraging. If Nate Mason is what we think he is that gives the Gophers six players (including McNeil) who look to get to the rim, a handful of shooters, a legit low post scorer and defender (two different guys unfortunately), Josh Martin who's going to do some spectacular things, both good and bad, and whatever the get from Bakary Konate who I manged to not notice at all in his 13 minutes last night. Pretty solid.
Things get real in a hurry with the opener against Louisville just a week away. I fear the Gophers are going to get killed, but they've surprised me with some big wins in the past in similar early season games so I hope I'm wrong. Should be a fun season. Let's rock and or roll.