The Gophers return all five starters from last year's NCAA Tournament team, where they played their way to a 5 seed. Most importantly, they bring back a tremendous frontcourt that consists of Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Reggie Lynch and All-B1G Third Team Jordan Murphy. Murphy is averaging almost 23 points a game this season and more than 12 rebounds, so he's taken a major leap this year. Lynch was third in the nation in blocks last season, so the front court for the Gophers is very hard to score against.
The backcourt is deep, with All-B1G point guard Nate Mason running things, flanked by B1G Freshman of the Year Amir Coffey, who is a 6-8 combo guard and can score in several different ways. In terms of weaknesses, the Gophers don't have many. Their frontcourt is thin after Murphy and Lynch, and Lynch had major foul problems last year. So, if teams can go at him early and often they can usually get him into foul trouble and force him to the bench. Minnesota has also been subpar in defending the three pointer this year and teams with good ball rotation and execution have given them fits.
The Gophers beat Providence on the road, so they've had an early test that they passed. However, Alabama will be the toughest opponent they've faced so far this season, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried about the Alabama guards. The neutral court will help and I think Minnesota's defense and interior gives them a slight edge. I'll take them by two points in a nailbiter.