#1 Minnesota vs. #4 Saint Mary’s
Date: Mar. 23rd, 2014
Time: 12:00 p.m. PST
Location: Williams Arena, Minneapolis, Minn.
Video: Watch ESPN
James Walker III
After coming back against the visiting Utah Utes, the Saint Mary’s Gaels (23-11) continue their NIT Tournament by visiting No. 1 seed Minnesota (21-13), who defeated 8 seed High Point in the first round. The Gophers have a pretty impressive resume, but an 8-10 record in the Big-10 wasn’t enough to get them an at-large bid into the dance. A stretch of three close losses (at Nebraska, vs. Northwestern, and at Purdue) essentially cost the Gophers a chance at March Madness.
The Gophers will be led by SG Dre Hollins, who was the teams leading scorer last year. His mid-season injury essentially cost Minnesota the chance to play in the tournament. He will be complemented by Austin Hollins, who primarily plays the “3” role.
Because Minnesota’s team is guard-oriented, the Gaels, in theory, should match up very well with them. As long as Saint Mary’s prevents the guards from penetrating to the basket, and limits their three pointers, then Saint Mary’s could come back and dominate in the frontcourt.
Key Matchup: Matt Hodgson vs. Elliott Eliason
Eliason isn’t dominant for a starting center, averaging 5.3 points per game and 6.8 rebounds per game. In my opinion, Hodgson’s performance got the ball rolling for the Gaels to come back against Utah and that deserves the start over Waldow. If Hodgson can keep it rolling and Holt & co. can get him the ball down the low, the Gaels should be able to expose Minnesota’s front court weakness.
Prediction: Matt Hodgson will lead the Gaels to victory. Petrulis will hit a three-pointer.