The Minnesota Golden Gophers (18-9, 6-8) have been struggling but could get things back on track quickly with a win over #1/#1 Indiana (24-3, 12-2). The Hoosiers visit Williams Arena Tuesday night at 6pm CT. The game will be carried on ESPN. (Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Indiana's roster could see a fair amount of turnover after this season, but don't feel too bad. Hoosier-commit Noah Vonleh leads one of the nation's top 2013 recruiting classes. (photo: adidas Nations)
Game Preview: #1/#1 Indiana (24-3, 12-2) at Minnesota (18-9, 6-8) 2/26/13
Tubby Smith and the Minnesota Gophers haven’t had many answers when challenged lately.
On Tuesday evening the nation’s top team comes into Williams Arena as a confident group who has responded well to some tough questions of their own.
Can Indiana win on the road? A year ago the Hoosiers finished 3-6 as the visitor in Big Ten games including a disappointing loss at Nebraska. This season they are 6-1 including recent impressive wins at Michigan State and Ohio State.
Is Indiana’s defense good enough? From an efficiency standpoint the Hoosiers have a top 15 defense in the nation thanks in large part to holding their opponents’ eFG% in check. During the 2011-12 season teams shot 50% eFG% or better in nearly half the games against Indiana. This year, 50% has been achieved in just six of 27 games (22%).
A decrease in 3FG% is part of the improved defensive eFG% and some of that may be due to chance. However, the 2FG% defense improvement year over year is undeniably impressive:
WHAT THIS GAME MEANS
Minnesota was 15-1 overall and 3-0 in the Big Ten when they first played Indiana this season. Since then the Gophers have gone 3-8 and were embarrassed in their past two contests, losing by a combined 47 points.
Tubby Smith could really use a win. Now back home after getting throttled on the road, the Gophers need a solid early start against Indiana or the tension, pressure and disappointment will continue to rise in Minneapolis.
A Minnesota victory would have the team feeling great about an NCAA tournament bid and make the next couple of weeks far less stressful. Lose and there is work to do.
Indiana has a two game lead in the Big Ten, but challenges remain with road games at Minnesota and Michigan plus home games against Iowa and Ohio State. A win should help move their status from confident toward comfortable in the race for conference supremacy.
It’s just another forty minutes of basketball, but emotions will be running especially high in Minnesota. Whether there are cheers of encouragement and approval in a win over the #1 team in the nation or there are boo birds reciting harsh chants, the sound in the Barn could be deafening.
Minnesota can certainly win, but so many intangibles point to a loss. The Gophers opened up as a 4.5 point underdog in Vegas which doesn’t sound so bad… until you consider they’ve lost against the spread in six straight games by an average of more than 11 points.
LAST TIME, THIS TIME
The Gophers were fine early on and trailed by only a single point with 10:09 left in the first half. However, Indiana would outscore Minnesota 36-14 to close out the half with a 52-29 lead.
Tubby Smith’s Gophers kept competing and the final score was a respectable 88-81, but the first half deficit proved too much to overcome.
All ten starters scored in double figures in the first match up. In just the first half every Hoosier scored 8 points or more (only Yogi Ferrell (8) and Cody Zeller (9) failed to reach 10 first half points). The Hoosiers, who have been held under 50% eFG only three times this season, went 7/11 from 3FG and shot 76.6% eFG in the first half against Minnesota.
If Indiana is shooting as well they can, there isn’t much of a chance for Minnesota to win. In Big Ten play Indiana shoots a conference-best 55.1% eFG (including 43.4% 3FG), which is more than 7% better than Minnesota.
The Gophers have shot less than 50% eFG in 15 of their 27 games. In their last five games, Minnesota hasn’t been above 43% eFG and they posted a season- low 31.2% eFG last week at Ohio State.
There is a little bit of hope. Minnesota made 11 of 27 (40.7%) 3-point field goal attempts at Indiana. However, over the past three seasons the Gophers have made 10 or more 3-pointers only five times… compared to 21 times for their opponents.
Both teams had turnover issues at Assembly Hall. Minnesota gave the ball away 12 times in the first half (including 4 turnovers by Andre Hollins and 3 by Austin Hollins) and Indiana did so 11 times in the second half.
The Hoosiers have a turnover rate of 19.4% in Big Ten play. That puts them in 10th place, better than only Penn State and Minnesota.
While Penn State has a turnover rate that is slightly worse than Indiana (19.7%), things fall of a cliff before getting down to Minnesota’s level (a conference worst 22.7%).
With the disparity in how well these teams shoot the ball, the Gophers can’t afford to be at or worse than their normal net turnover margin of negative-3.2 per Big Ten game.
Both teams are in the same boat – they do well on the offensive boards and not so well on the defensive glass. In the first game Indiana grabbed 42.4% of their possible offensive rebounds while Minnesota was close behind at 40.5%.
The board battle should be fairly close on Tuesday.
Although these two rank #1 and #2 in the Big Ten at getting to the charity stripe, Indiana is far better than Minnesota and one of the best in all of college basketball.
In addition to getting to the line, Indiana is excellent at keeping the opponent off of it.
After a first half that saw just four free throw attempts (all for Indiana), there were 51 in the second half (36 to 15 in favor of the Hoosiers) of the first meeting.
According to RealGM.com…
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Tag(s): Gopher Basketball