MINNEAPOLIS -- The Gophers men’s basketball team has encountered an unexpectedly tough spot of its nonconference schedule.
They anticipated being tested against Oklahoma, Butler and Utah, all losses this month, before coming home to blow out Central Michigan and North Dakota to improve to 3-3.
On Friday, Nov. 29, Minnesota (3-3) appears to be facing maybe its biggest challenge get in DePaul (7-0). Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. at Williams Arena.
Picked to finish last in the Big East preseason coach’s poll, the Blue Demons are off to their best start since 1986 — when DePaul was still an independent — and trounced Iowa 93-78 on Nov. 11 in Iowa City.
“I think they kind of surprised everybody with that Iowa win,” Gophers head coach Richard Pitino said Wednesday. “They were up by 30 points, and I think that was kind of a statement game for them.”
DePaul, which also has beaten Boston College, is led by guard Charlie Moore at 16.6 points per game, with forward Paul Reed is averaging a double-double: 15.9 points, 10.6 rebounds.
“Moore really makes them go,” Pitino said. “Reed is as good as any power forward in the country.”
Both Minnesota and DePaul have played Central Michigan; the Gophers never trailed in a 82-57 win Nov. 21. The Chippewas has an 18-point lead on DePaul before the Blue Demons rallied for a 88-75 win.
“Central Michigan plays crazy tempo,” Pitino said. “… You are going to have a game of runs when you play that tempo. It didn’t surprise me that they built a lead. Central Michigan hit a bunch of (3-pointers) early and were turning them over. Then they got cold, and DePaul got some great momentum.”
A victory over DePaul would likely help Minnesota when NCAA tournament talk ramps up later this season.