What to Expect: Minnesota

  • 02/07/2014 10:55 am in

After a five-day break, Indiana returns to action on Saturday night when it travels to Williams Arena to face Minnesota. The Golden Gophers are 15-8 overall and 4-6 in the Big Ten.

The game will be broadcast at 8:15 p.m. ET on BTN and on the IU radio network:

Make no mistake about it, this is a huge three-game stretch on the horizon for Indiana and the game that tips it off on Saturday may be the biggest of the three.

Sunday’s win over No. 10 Michigan ramped back up NCAA tournament talk for the Hoosiers. Every game is pivotal when you’re on the tournament bubble, but we’re going to know a lot more about where IU stands after it faces Minnesota, Penn State and Purdue over the next eight days.

The first test is a Minnesota team that has dropped three straight and is attempting to regain its footing after a 13-3 start. The Golden Gophers have been tough at home with just two losses by a combined four points. From the Minnesota angle, this is probably a must win if they hope to finish .500 or better in league play with road trips to Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan and a home date with Iowa still looming.

For Indiana, getting to nine league wins is probably a good baseline for strong consideration, which is going to require adding a road win. And that assumes Indiana can hold serve at home. Here’s a look at the win probability (per KenPom) of Indiana’s remaining road games underscoring the importance of getting the win(s) sooner rather than later:

020814probup

PERSONNEL

Tubby Smith didn’t leave the cupboard bare when he was fired and the Golden Gophers brought on Richard Pitino from Florida International. Pitino did some spring recruiting to shore things up, but Smith left behind a solid backcourt duo of Andre and Austin Hollins.

Junior Andre Hollins is back for the Gophers after missing nearly all of Minnesota’s win over Wisconsin and subsequent games against Nebraska and Northwestern with a foot injury. The senior guard is averaging a team-high 13.8 points in conference games, but isn’t shooting it great with an effective field goal percentage of just 47.9.

Senior Austin Hollins is just fourth on the team in scoring in league play at 9.8 points per game and is even less efficient with an effective field goal percentage of just 44.2. Two Pitino adds last spring, JUCO guard DeAndre Mathieu and senior Malik Smith, a transfer from Florida International, have fared much better in league play.

Mathieu, who is listed at 5-foot-11, is averaging 11.8 points in Big Ten games with an effective field goal percentage of 52.2. He’s also Minnesota’s best distributor with an assist rate of 30.7, but can be turnover prone at times (25.6 TO%). Smith, a reserve, is the team’s third leading scorer in league play at 10.5 points per game and leads the team overall with 46 3-pointers made. All four guards are solid from the foul line with free throw percentages of 77 or better.

Minnesota’s frontcourt isn’t a big part of its offense, but the Gophers do have four contributors who are capable of making an impact. Junior Elliott Eliason is great at cleaning up the defensive glass (24.8 DR%) and averages 6.8 points on 56 percent shooting in league games. Oto Osenieks, another junior, starts alongside of Eliason and likes to step out and shoot from the perimeter where he’s hit 6-of-15 attempts in Big Ten play.

Maurice Walker, a 6-foot-10 junior who lost over 50 pounds after Pitino’s arrival, is solid off the bench with averages of 8.3 points and 3.6 rebounds in just 15.4 minutes per game in league play. And Joey King, a transfer from Drake, is similar to Osenieks in that he prefers to shoot from the perimeter, where he’s hit 6-of-14 of his attempts in Big Ten play.

TEMPO-FREE PREVIEW

As we’ve done for the past couple of games and will continue for the rest of league play, here’s a tempo-free look at both teams in conference games only:

020714pom

There are some similarities in the profiles of both teams, but also some notable differences. Both teams struggle with turnovers, excel on the offensive glass and get to the free throw line well.

Indiana is actually shooting it better on 3s than Minnesota (38.1% vs. 33.9%), but the Gophers are second in conference play on 2s at 52.3 percent. The Hoosiers, meanwhile, are making just 42.8 percent of their 2s.

While Minnesota does do a solid job on the offensive glass, the Gophers have been dreadful at keeping opponents off the offensive glass and their opponent free throw rate is that of a team that is simply undisciplined on defense. Those are two major factors in why Minnesota is the Big Ten’s worst defense at 1.09 points per possession allowed in conference games.

WHAT IT COMES DOWN TO

Both KenPom and Sagarin are bullish on Minnesota’s changes with both models predicting the Gophers by five. Neither, of course, takes recent play much into consideration like the Vegas line, which will be out later today, likely will.

Still, playing at home is a major factor for Minnesota and the raised floor and hostile environment present a significant challenge for a young Indiana team that has struggled away from Assembly Hall.

Indiana’s success rests largely on strong performances from both Yogi Ferrell and Noah Vonleh, hitting the offensive glass hard against a team that has a major vulnerability there and getting to the foul line, another major weakness for Minnesota. With the Golden Gophers struggling to defend, Indiana should also look to involve Will Sheehey as much as possible off the ball while keeping Stan Robinson in position to attack off the dribble and get to the rim.

As much as the computer models favor Minnesota heading in, the numbers suggest this is certainly a game where Indiana has matchups it can exploit and a win in Minneapolis would put the Hoosiers at .500 in league play for the first time this season.

(Photo credit: Associated Press, Eugene Tanner)

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  • Dflahardy

    Calbert,

  • Dflahardy

    This team has really turned the corner starting with the Nebraska game even though we folded in the second half,

  • Dflahardy

    I moved to florida in the last year so I get all the magic games,and I remember crean screaming at victor in the Kentucky win. THEY CANT STOP YOU!!!! When he’s at the top of the key and he gets that mindset he’ll drive on your whole damn team, he looks so much faster he’s like a blur, I swear watch the highlights from OKC,magic and call me a troll.. That boy can flat out play. He looks better as a freshman at the nba level than he did last year vs college players at some times. Calbert Chaney was my idol, I grew up in Evansville, but victor is that man!!

  • Dflahardy

    A troll, I can’t freaking believe it. Just watch the friggin play,,

  • CreanFaithful

    I prefer Yogi make solid decisions and take what the defense is giving him, whether that is taking a three or getting to the rim. Nobody can hold him if he doesn’t get one dimensional.

  • CreanFaithful

    I think your comment is being taken as “best player while at IU,” which I would agree with others that he was not. Calbert is still the all time leading B1G scorer and Thomas/Alford hoisted banners. I’m too young (32) to comment on McGinnis. AJ was a great player, but I’d probably put Vic over him.

    Now…. If you wanna talk about basketball after IU, Vic has a legitimate shot. Obviously things didn’t pan out for Alford or Guyton after college. Calbert had a solid career, but I think Vic, barring injury will have more success. Thomas??? We shall see, but I hope so!

  • Dflahardy

    I just watch every game down here and he looks so much better now even though he’s playing nba players, I’d give anything to see him at IU this year, and yes you said exactly what I was trying to say my friend,,

  • Gregory Spera

    McDonald’s All-American, First team NCAA All-American, NCAA Champion, NCAA Finals MVP, 12 time NBA All-Star, 2 time NBA Champion, NBA Finals MVP and NBA Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas is not only the best Indiana player ever, he is simply one of the greatest players ever, period. Victor’s very good, but c’mon…

  • Dflahardy

    I’m not arguing against Isaiah’s accolades, and I’m not saying victor is there yet, but his toolbox is full, his heart and drive are there,, I just see big things for that kid,,, or man!!!!

  • Dflahardy

    This team crean is building is a little bit different, think about it crean has built some prolific offenses, this one is starting as one hell of a defensive and rebounding team, add in the right shooters and let the chemistry build who know what could happen next year,,

  • Gregory Spera

    We all love Victor, and while he is playing very well, he is the (15-37) Orlando Magic’s backup point guard right now. When he leads that team to a couple of Championships, we can revisit this discussion. I’m rooting for him.

  • Dflahardy

    Ok your right, I got a little carried away.. I love victor though I hope he gets the right team around him,

  • Guyton25

    Agree 100%

  • kbb247

    I would agree with that as well. It is hard to take NW seriously, given their history. They do play lights on defense, and are on a bit of a roll right now.

  • Guyton25

    He’s definitely still wowing me at the NBA level, and with that work ethic of his, the sky is the limit. The man, indeed.

  • Guyton25

    I know, we almost never get a good look when we slow it down

  • JetpackJunky

    I hope so. Our neutral site experiences so far tell me that they are more likely to melt under the bright hot lights than dominate under them though.

  • Snookafly

    Should’ve been an Olympic gold medalist too, if it wasn’t for that crybaby Jordan.

  • Dflahardy

    Ok, best case scenario is we finish 10-8, and get in the tourney as like a 9 seed, with losses to Iowa, Wisconsin, and michigan.. Worst case I don’t wanna discuss.. It’s a possibility and it starts tonight,,

  • 3AM Burrito

    Sheehey needs to be really effective if we are going to win. If they go 2-3 zone, which I am sure they will, Sheehey has got to be effective cutting in and hitting that intermediate jumper or making the right pass. He also has got to lead on offense too and keep the guys running the offense and not get stagnant like 2nd half vs. Nebraska.
    I really think we get big games from Noah and Troy, both should rack up a lot of rebounds and if either is near double double in this game I like IU’s chances.

  • 3AM Burrito

    I think you can always debate the greatest player in IU history ever and many worthy candidates and I love Victor, one of my favorite players at IU ever, but even Oladipo’s agent would be hard pressed to say Victor is even close to being in the same conversation as Isaiah Thomas for greatest IU player in history.

  • Dflahardy

    Well, he just got started. I guess I’m more referring to the s – curve so to speak on his improvement. If it continues at the same pace how good can oladipo be.. Were gonna find out!!

  • Dflahardy

    Barring foul trouble every game should be a big game from Noah, and if it isn’t it’s probably not his fault, nahmean

  • HannerTime Hoosier

    IU BY 2! Hanner grabs 6 rebs, scores 6, 2 TOs in 8 minutes. Imho

  • Michael McColly

    Defense is crucial to this team’s success, and I think Crean has figured this out. It gives them a foundation so that when they struggle or find some tempo on offense it doesn’t matter as long as they are controlling boards and making it as hard as they for the other team to score. It’s a psychological switch for a team that keeps them from losing their confidence and poise. It’s always been what separates the top tier of the BIG with the mediocre teams who are up and then down depending on threes or hot hands or homer calls.

  • Kenneth234

    Its not so much not getting a good look, as it is there will likely be a good 6 to 8 seconds less when we get the ball across. Which simply limits the time that they can go to the weave to waste shot clock, or whatever they are doing this year with it. I used to think they were probing and trying to get switches to take advantage of, but this year it seems like they do it, and then completely reset the offense with 11 seconds to go.

  • So, let’s lay the fourth straight on them.. Just sayin’…

  • I was disappointed with the first minny game at home. I think the energy will be there today and hopefully we can return the favor. The team needs to execute well on D and stick to their strengths – offensive rebounding. Look for Yogi to have a great game. Win is essential to move forward to the dance.

  • Dflahardy

    Well it’s worst case scenario, this teams not going to the dance,, don’t matter anyways,,

  • Sam Robertson

    Just saw your reply, but did you see him drive in towards the end of the MIN game? I agree take what the defense gives him but I would rather him leaning towards shooting it than driving it. He’s just about too small to be driving it in all the time, either that or he makes way to many bad decisions on that front.