Dec 20, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Gophers guard Andre Hollins (1) looks to pass in the first half against the Nebraska Omaha Mavericks at Williams Arena. Mandatory Credit: Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan Basketball: Michigan at Minnesota -- Preview

GBMWolverine Basketball TidbitsPosted at 12:00pm — 1/2/2014

Michigan Basketball: Michigan at Minnesota — Preview

Big Ten Hoops Take Center Stage

With few exceptions, the college football season is over and major conference basketball play continues after New Year’s Day. The Big Ten will again be loaded; that is old news and obvious. But from this perspective, the bottom end of the conference may actually be improved and the top end will show a small shake up, no tsunami, but a shake up.

Dec 28, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Gophers head coach Richard Pitino on the sidelines in the second half against the Texas A

Last year Minnesota had a good team in the wrong league, like a few other conference members. A 31-year-old Pitino, Richard Pitino Jr., now coaches Minnesota. Starting early in his college academic career, the younger Pitino worked as a volunteer high school coach and quickly took on many roles and responsibilities as a college assistant. His stops of highest note are Louisville and Florida. His mantra is hard work. At the age of 29, Pitino became Head Coach of FIU and in the midst of the aftermath of the Isaiah Thomas mess led his team to an 18-14 record.

The Gophers will start the Big season at home against Michigan and the old barn will be stoked with anticipation of the new era. In short, Michigan is probably walking into a potential buzz saw of emotion and energy.

Minnesota’s attack and scheme will greatly resemble Louisville. The pace will be up- tempo. Expect a much faster floor game than under half-court legend Tubby Smith. The defense will be equally aggressive, as the trapping style of Louisville will be applied. Because of the new style the guards will not be saddled with point guard/play running duties as much as run, shoot, and play.

The reality is that the Gophers do not have the same talent as the Big Ten front-runners. At least not yet, but will be dangerous, perhaps more so earlier in the conference season then later. The good deal is low expectations. No one is predicting a final four trip. That will change as the years progress, assuming success in recruiting.

There is a good start: the Hollins brothers, Andre and Austin. There are nights that Andre can lite the board up as well as any conference guard. Both are averaging over 13 points a game and the floor leadership has been sound. The third guard is the very fast 5’ 9” JUCO Deandrea Mathieu. He will serve as the point guard freeing up the Hollins brothers for more offense.

The inside presence is 6’ 10” Elliott Eliason. He is a typical Minnesota big man: not of twinkle toes but a very good defender and one who can work a size advantage.

The rest of the team is newcomers and role players. Pitino will play the faster and longest players that fit his press and run system.

Dec 28, 2013; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines guard Nik Stauskas (11) brings the ball up court in the first half against the Holy Cross Crusaders at Crisler Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

A team with Trey Burke would be difficult to press, but this year’s Michigan team is more vulnerable. Clearly, Walton Jr. and Michigan favorite Spike will split duties bringing the ball up the court. But lately Stauskas has helped somewhat against pressure.

The barn is a tough, tough place to shoot three’s for visitors, not near impossible but tough. Michigan may be well served to attempt to use some size and flash to the basket as opposed to the dribble and fly offense demonstrated recently.

The truth is Michigan is a good but not great half-court team. As a result the coaches may be featuring the run to a spot offense that needs about two dribbles and two passes.

Do not expect a game in the fifties or sixties as in past years. It will probably take 70 plus to win the opener. Eighty seems to be the magic number for Michigan.

Poise will be needed, but Michigan’s schedule should have the still young team somewhat prepared. The Gophers are 11-2, 2-2 against good competition.

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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — Doc4Blu

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