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Victor Oladipo

Game Preview: Gophers at Indiana 1/12/13

01/11/2013, 12:00pm CST
By J.B. Bauer

Top Ten Teams Tangle in Bloomington

Both the Indiana Hoosiers and Minnesota Golden Gophers have just one loss all season. That will change on Saturday in a game that could prove pivitol in the chase for the conference championship. Game time is 11am CT and this one can be seen on the Big Ten Network. (Photo: Andy Lyons / Getty Images)

Cody Zeller

The Gopher defenders must make their presence known to Cody Zeller. (Photo: Darren Cummings / Associated Press)

Game Preview: #8/#10 Minnesota (15-1, 3-0) at #5/#5 Indiana (14-1, 2-0) 1/12/13 

Fresh off a big win at Illinois, the Gophers look to complete a two-game road sweep when they face the Indiana Hoosiers Saturday morning.

Indiana’s offense is well respected, but if the Hoosiers’ shots aren’t falling they are very beatable (in their loss to Butler, Indiana shot just 46.8% eFG). The problem for their opponents is that their shots are usually going in. 

However, it’s their defense that holds the key to their season. So far this year the Hoosiers have looked great when defending.  Some think their defensive rating profile will fall off significantly as the season progresses, but as of today most statistical models say they have a top-10 defense. 

Both of these teams usually have four or five guys on the floor that average double-figures in scoring and are good at capitalizing on transition opportunities. For a league that is sometimes known for grind-it-out, slow-paced battles, Saturday’s match up should rank extremely high on the excitement scale and is a game that college basketball fans across the nation will be paying attention to.

SHOOTING

Indiana can score in many ways and has shot less than 50% eFG in just two games this season (the Gophers have done so seven times). The Hoosiers don’t shoot a ton of 3-pointers, but when they launch it’s done with great accuracy (41.9% 3FG). They’ve got slashers, an elite center, mid-range shooters and an elite outside sniper. 

There are lesser evils (Oladipo and Watford shooting 2-point jumpers; Yogi Ferrell shooting), but the Minnesota defense will have their hands full. This is a big test for the Gophers’ defense.

Both of these teams can strike fast. Whether it’s a turnover, rebound or off the opponent’s score, capitalizing on quick point opportunities is very important for both teams, but especially Minnesota. 

TURNOVERS

The edge goes to Indiana here. A year ago in Bloomington, Minnesota had their lowest turnover percentage game of their entire conference schedule. That would be a nice thing to repeat this year, but it’s not likely.

The Gophers may want to concentrate on Yogi Ferrell and Victor Oladipo, both of whom occasionally have miserable games with regard to coughing up the ball. 

REBOUNDING

Coming off a season low 26% offensive rebounding performance in Champaign, Minnesota needs to get back to their dominance on the o-glass.  Zeller and Watford do a solid job of defensive rebounding, but there are a number of Hoosiers who chip in. It won’t be easy, but the Gophers need to show why they have the nation’s best offensive rebounding percentage.

Indiana hasn’t been too bad at getting second chances themselves. For a team like Minnesota who isn’t good on the defensive glass, this is a big concern. Zeller is certainly a focal point, but watch out for Oladipo flying around in the paint. 

FREE THROWS

Both teams get to the line far more often than their opponent. During the 2010-11 season, Indiana constantly sent the other team to the line, but they cleaned things up last year and have been even better in 2012-13. Against a Minnesota team that doesn’t always shoot well, keeping them off the line is very helpful.

Generally speaking free throws are way down on the list of important factors in a basketball game, but in Saturday’s game the differential in attempts is something to closely monitor. 

KEY PLAYERS 

Sophomore center Cody Zeller (16.5p, 7.9r, 62.7% 2FG) has been excellent again this year. He’s an extremely versatile big man who can hurt you in many ways, although Indiana has so many weapons that his full arsenal isn’t always on display. There’s no stopping him, but Minnesota should make it known early and often that they’re going to get physical. Zeller is a legitimate star.

Yogi Ferrell (6.2p, 3.3r, 5.1a) projects to be an excellent college point guard, but he is a freshman. Small, but strong and shifty, Ferrell can move well with the ball and get into the lane. However, especially against better competition, his shooting hasn’t been good and his assist to turnover ratio has room to improve.  He’ll be a great point guard in the Big Ten, but he’s not there yet. 

Victor Oladipo (13.3p, 5.9r, 72.0% eFG) is great on both ends of the floor. The junior wing is a highlight reel athlete that gets to the basket and finishes when he gets there (72.0% 2FG, which coincidentally is the same as his eFG%). Oladipo was named to last season’s Big Ten All-Defensive Team and is carrying career-highs in steal and block percentages this year as well as a career-low in fouls called. His decision making can be suspect at times and multiple turnover games for the wing are not uncommon. Although Victor is shooting 47.8% 3FG (11/23) this season, Minnesota should be far more concerned with him attacking the rim than taking shots from the perimeter.

Jordan Hulls (11.1p, 2.8r, 3.8a, 68.8% eFG) has been ultra-efficient, continuing to knock down shots but also reducing his turnovers thanks in part to the arrival of Yogi Ferrell. If he’s got space, he’ll make you pay. Hulls has made 38/73 3FG for 52.1% this season and converted 72/146 for 49.3% a year ago. As a junior, Jordan’s shooting percentages fell a bit in conference play, but they were still excellent. 

Senior forward Christian Watford (12.7p, 6.5r, 45.1% 3FG) has seen his usage (possessions and shots) decline in the last two seasons, but he’s improved his efficiency. Even though he’s 6’9” with a 7’0” wingspan, Watford does his work offensively facing up and on the perimeter. With the ball in his hand, he’ll take some 2-point jumpers that probably should be deferred. On defense he can be overpowered and is another player the Gophers should establish physical play with early on. 

Will Sheehey (12.1p, 4.1r) comes off the bench but averages about 23 minutes. He’s 6’7” and a great defender who can take on smaller guards or bigger forwards. He’s a skilled worker who has been also been excellent on offense. Sheehey has been drawing contact a good amount and can get to the bucket, but he’s also a solid 3-point shooter (13/33 for 39.4% this year) and has a very nice shot from midrange. 

Other Players to Watch: 

·         Remy Abell (6.5p, 2.1r, 64.9% eFG) is averaging fewer than 16 minutes per game off the bench, but probably would be playing a lot more at some other schools. He’s not one of the names that come to mind immediately when thinking about the Hoosiers, but he’s been ready whenever his name is called.

·         How the game develops will dictate how much we’ll see them on Saturday, but freshmen whose names you’ll hear a lot of in the future include Jeremy Hollowell (5.0p, 2.8r in 12 games) and Hanner Perea (2.0p, 2.3r in 6 games).

·         The 6’8” Hollowell has great size on the wing and a sweet stroke (although he’s just 3/19 3FG for 15.8% this year) and the ability to score inside or out. Perea is also 6’8”, but a power forward type that does his business inside. He possesses great length, athleticism and strength (Trevor vs. Hanner inside would be a war) and was downright nasty with some of his shot blocking and dunks in AAU ball. Both players are exceptionally talented with substantial upside.

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J.B. Bauer on Twitter

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