PROVIDENCE FRIARS VS. MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS
RANKINGS: Minnesota (#15 AP, USA TODAY, #38 KenPom) | Providence (#24 KenPom)
RECORDS: Minnesota (1-0) | Providence (1-0)
TV CHANNEL: FS1
WATCH ONLINE: FOX Sports Go (Where Available)
SPREAD: The Friars open as 3.5-point faves.
O/U: The total stands at 127.5.
RECORDS ATS: Both teams are 0-0, as their opening games did not have a line.
SERIES HISTORY: Minnesota leads the all-time series against Providence 2-0, though the two programs haven’t met in the 21st century. The first meeting was all the way back in November 1991. A Maui Invitational encounter between the two led to an 89-82 victory for the Golden Gophers. The Golden Gophers then beat the Friars 76-70 the following year in the NIT Semifinals at MSG.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS - REGGIE LYNCH
Minnesota big man Reggie Lynch will be providing a big boost for the Golden Gophers in this game.
Lynch has the size and stature (6-foot-10, 265 lbs.) to wreak havoc and the defensive prowess, as well. The Edina, Minnesota native was the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year a season ago and was also named to the conference’s All-Defensive Team. He posted the second-highest Block% in the country last year (14.5%) and had the Big Ten’s best (14.4%) during conference play.
The Providence Friars will absolutely have to account for him when cutting to the lane and trying to score at the hoop. They made 64.7 percent of their shots at the rim against Houston Baptist on Friday night. That number will certainly be a challenge to reach again against one of the Big Ten’s best defensive players.
PROVIDENCE FRIARS - RODNEY BULLOCK
Providence’s go-to scorer had a bit of a shaky start to the season. In Friday’s win over Houston Baptist, Rodney Bullock only posted seven points in 29 minutes. He was efficient, converting on 2-5 from the field, but therein lies the issue. He only took five shots. For the Friars to beat the Golden Gophers, they will have to get more out of him.
He struggled a bit with consistency issues, but when he’s on, the Friars are extremely hard to beat. Case in point: The six-game win streak that they went on leading into the Big East Tournament last year. In those six games, Bullock posted double figures five times and averaged 12.5 points.
Providence will need that kind of production from Bullock on Monday night if they want to pull off the W.
WHAT HAPPENS HERE?
This is a sneaky good matchup and a fun way to tip off this year’s Gavitt Games. Richard Pitino will be having a homecoming of sort, as he returns to his alma mater. The Friars have been notoriously tough to beat at The Dunk in nonconference play. Under Ed Cooley, they only have one loss to a nonconference opponent at home: A 77-67 loss to the Brown Bears back on December 8, 2014.
The Golden Gophers have only played four nonconference road games since Richard Pitino took over. In those four games, it’s an even split, as they’re 2-2 in those contests. They certainly have a lot of returning talent in Lynch, Jordan Murphy and Amir Coffey, to name a few.
It will be a test, but I like the Friars’ depth in this matchup over the Gophers’. Murphy went off for 35 and Lynch had 15 in their win over the USC Upstate Spartans. But only one other player got into double figures, and only two others got at least eight points. Providence has a dossier of wings that they’ll be able to send at Minnesota, and I think overwhelmingly so.
I sense a Friars win, but it wouldn’t shock me if Minnesota covered.
Providence 75, Minnesota 73