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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  • InTheMtns

    This is obviously a big game for both teams, but I think the Hoosiers are ready for a big road win. Indiana by 5. Go Hoosiers!!!

  • Michael R

    I honestly think that IU will take this one. The nightmare that was Trevor Mbakwe is gone, meaning Vonleh and Company will clean the glass. There is very few guards in the league that can keep up with Yogi in any defensive sets and I think Vonleh will abuse Minnesota’s post defenders. IU is not going to fix their turnover issues, but that should not matter. If Minnesota takes this game, it will be either Minnesota shooting a season high fg% or IU having another performance like our game against Northwestern. Look for IU to get to the free throw line early and often. The big surprise in this game IMO will come from Troy Williams, as his athletic will be too much for Minnesota to contend with at the rim.

  • Gregory Spera

    What to expect? Well, if I have calculated the biometric wavelength spectrum of this incredibly bi-polar team correctly, then they should play one of their worst games of the season tomorrow. They’re due, right? I mean they just play really well and beat a top ten team, previously. Predicting what and when this Indiana team is going to do something is harder than timing the stock market.

  • kyle jenkins

    What to expect:

    Another close BIG game obviously. Minnesota will pack it in on defense and dare us to shoot. Like any other game if we can hit outside shots we will win. Our defense will be able to guard them as they don’t have any real stars or guys that can take over the game. If Yogi can shoot half as well as last game from 3 and someone else contribute for a couple 3’s we have a great chance. Its all about the 3 ball efficiency with this team. We know we can get to the rim with multiple players already.

  • MillaRed

    With what we have done, where we are now and what we have left on the schedule, I really think this could be a make or break game in terms of making the dance. Not saying it’s win or we’re out, just saying it’s a winnable game, a road game which the NCAA idiots covet so much (unlike narrow losses to UCONN or MSU that mean absolutely nothing to them).

    A win puts us in much better position. A loss makes things a little more challenging IMO.

  • Kyl470

    Agree to disagree.

  • MillaRed

    My guy is Will Sheehey. We need to him to stuff the staff sheet to win this one.

  • Kyl470

    What to expect is to expect the unexpected. This team is about as big of wild card as it gets. I wouldn’t be shocked if Yogi went off and had another lights out shooting game. I also wouldn’t be shocked if he had an off night and goes 1-8 on 3’s.

  • CreamandCrimson

    Outside of knowing a basketball game will be played and that it will be cold on Saturday, none of us really have any idea “what to expect”. This season has been equal parts interesting, encouraging, frustrating and infuriating. Our tournament chances, as ITH writers and other commenters have pointed out recently, are going to come down to whether or not our Hoosiers can step up and win most of the 50/50 games remaining on our schedule. A loss doesn’t doom us and a victory doesn’t guarantee anything but a win in Minneapolis would go a long way towards making our hopes of making the Big Dance a reality.

    As Gregory Spera pointed out, if the roller coaster continues then we are due to play a crappy game and get beaten by double figures. However, if we have matured a bit and can deal with some success after a week off, then there are some things to like about this matchup. Defensive rebounding is a strength for us and a weakness for Minnesota. We excel at getting to the line, Minnesota struggles with fouling opponents. There are things to like but I will be watching this game having no idea what to expect and just hoping that “good IU” shows up at the Barn for at least the majority of the 40 minutes. Go Hoosiers!

  • CreamandCrimson

    Well said and I totally agree.

  • IUJeff

    Wow. A W and were are tied for 4th in the B1G. A loss and we are back down with PUke. Who woulda thought?

  • IUfanPurduePhD

    The B1G Network has been displaying those “havoc index” stats in which they assess the defense’s level of turnover creation, shot blocking, FG%, etc. For our Hoosiers, they need to perform a “manic index.”

  • Walton

    IU is due for their best game of the year!

  • TomJameson

    I agree too Milla. We need 5 wins and there’s only 9 games left. Losing any game makes it harder to fight the odds and get those 5 wins. Not impossible yet, but getting to that point. We are finally getting close to that area where any game really is a “must win”. Like you said, more challenging.

  • Alford Bailey

    I dont have a good feeling about this one. Three straight losses by Minny. They need a big win bad and we just had one.

  • IUJeff

    Not sure they can play much better than they did against Wisky or MU.
    But I hope we can get this road win and get back to .500 in conference.

  • IUJeff

    After the defensive gem by CTC and Co. in the last game, I am looking forward to the plan for this game.
    The refs always worry me some in away games. A couple quick fouls on Vonleh and our rebounding edge is gone.

  • kbb247

    I agree as well. I will add that I think that this game is important for us to win, because Minnesota and IU will probably finish 6th or 7th in the B1G. I seriously doubt the conference gets 7 in, so it is important to finish ahead of Minny, and a win would go a long way in solidifying that.

  • MillaRed

    BTW, I wish my daddy was Ricky Pit so I could coach a Big Ten team when I was 31.

  • 5_Banners

    i agree. When hes active…good things happen.

  • CreanFaithful

    There is a surprise…

  • Sam Robertson

    Here is to Yogi using his ball handling skills and speed to get open from three and not driving into traffic. Lets also get Vonleah involved early and often and keep the bench short. Go IU!

  • Guyton25

    Here’s my bottom line: If history tells us anything, IU is due for a loss after the win vs Michigan. We lose these follow-up games because we get lazy moving the ball around and commit turnovers. Minnesota’s backcourt defense is underrated, they get plenty of steals per game. They also turn the ball over a lot, though. So I’m saying the key to winning for IU is winning the turnover battle and second chance points. Gordon and Yogi need to be the floor generals while Vonleh dominates the paint on both ends and Sheehey and WIlliams slash and slam all night long. Minny can’t shoot 3’s so they’ll have to beat us at our own game, forcing them to get their points around Vonleh.. which is never advisable.

  • Guyton25

    Ya and I don’t want to go into Who’s Laughingyet with the same record.. that would make us appear on the same level. Superior record or fml.

  • Ole Man

    I’ve had nightmares about Vonleh and the refs all week long.
    I think he get’s jobbed by the refs. There goes much of our defense, our rebounding and a good bit of our scoring (isn’t he second on the team in that category?)

  • SCHoosier

    The Hollins boys were great from three in past years..have yet to light it up this year altho they do a lot of good things. Let’s hope they don’t start Sat. Good match up for Yogi in MN’s new PG..Mathieu (sp?) quick as a wink and can get to the bucket.

  • Court Storming Hoosier

    Like I said last week, IU will win if they score the most points.

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    IU has won 2 big games at home it shouldn’t have and lost a tough one at home it should’ve.

    IU has dropped two games on the road (ILL and NEB) it should’ve won and almost picked up one at MSU it shouldn’t have.

    I’m going out on a limb and saying this is the breakthrough game for this young team and IU goes on the road and wins at The Barn, one of the toughest venues in college basketball. The gophers suffer from their 3OT game at PUke and extend their B1G losing streak while the Hoosiers turn the corner towards the NCAA tournament!

    IU by 5 at Minny.

    Hoo Hoo Hoo HOOSIERS!!!

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    Noah will have a huge game! No way that either of Minny’s slow, nonathletic big men can hang with him in this one!

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    The charge call at Nebraska in the 2nd half turned the tide and gave that game to the Huskers!

    I hope Noah and can stay out of foul trouble because I don’t think Minny’s bigs can hang with him for the entire game! I’m going out on a limb and saying Hanner may have a big 10-12 minutes in this game as well.

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    Yogi is hot. Mathieu will sag in order to prove he can stay in front of Yogi and Yogi can shoot over him. If he stays hot he has a huge game!

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    Look for this young IU team to go on a run in the B1G tournament as well! I think they’re the right kind of team to thrive in Indy in front of a pro-Hoosier crowd and beat a team they shouldn’t just like they have at home.

  • iuoiu

    I have horrible memories about playing in this place, and the worst was last year’s loss. I honestly think that something happened in that game last year that took the fight out of our team. Sure they won a few big games after that but they just never looked the same after getting pushed around up there. Man I hope it’s not that way this year…..

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    I think the big one left on the schedule is at NW. Minny has a tough remaining schedule and I don’t think they’ll finish in the top 7. NW could so if the Hoosiers could knock them off then hang with them they could end up neck and neck and NW’s win at IU would be canceled out and their non-conference record is lousy so IU would get the nod.

  • inadvertentelbows_stillhurt

    Have to win all winnable games on paper the rest of the way.

  • ForeverIU

    I am having a moment of clarity, you might call it my version of the crystal ball. We have gone through phases this season. The first was the high-substitution, faster, high-scoring, mental-fragmentation game, the-game-bigger-than-we-can-handle phase. The second is the settling rotations, learn-to-play-patient lower scoring game. Now that we have settled a bit, our next phase is going to be the complete game, which means perimeter shooting: Stan’s three was a good omen. My clear vision is not seeing what will happen at Minny, and I don’t think it is crucial to the rest of our BIG season. But after Minny I see all wins except possibly at Wisconsin and Michigan, although I see these two as close games, and therefore winnable as well. Our win against Iowa is going to take us to yet another level. We come in 3rd or 4th in the BIG. I say we are not going down without making big/BIG noise, the echos of which will resound to our next season, and we are going to be a legendary team. There you have it. Thus spake the crystal ball, not me.

  • HoosierPat

    This is a huge game. If IU is able to pull out a win, I think they’re right back in the thick of things as far as tourney talk goes. This team has obviously struggled away from Assembly Hall this season. Let’s hope they’re able to escape The Barn with a win

  • HoosierFan76

    You make a good point. Minnesota is currently listed as one of the last at-large teams and IU as one of the first few out (depending on which projection you read), so a Hoosier win at Minnesota would likely switch the standing of the two teams.

  • HoosierPat

    I think IU will have a great game IF Crean puts the right players on the floor. If he starts messing around with his subs and goes 11 deep again, it’ll be tough to get a win.

  • HoosierFan76

    Why do I have the song “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant” stuck in my head now? A bottle of white…a bottle of red…

  • Dflahardy

    Did you guys see the end of the magic OKC game?? Victor is so fast, he’s the best player in IU history, chew on that..

  • Guyton25

    Ya, it’s funny you both commented about the 3 shooting because, since I posted this earlier, I’ve been thinking about how they hit like 11 against us last year. Let’s hope they don’t remember they can shoot tomorrow.

  • Guyton25

    One of the most athletic, but come one.. Isiah Thomas, Calbert Cheaney, Steve Alford, George McGinnis, A.J. Guyton..

    I smell a troll

  • Guyton25

    The only thing better than a top 50 road win against an in-conference fellow bubbler is a top 25 in-conference road win. The main thing I’m wanting to see in this one is how much we’ve grown after the big win -terrible loss pattern, the turnover woes, and road woes. This is definitely a game that will define us going forward.

  • Kenneth234

    If they attack the press, Will and Troy could have plenty of opportunities to get those slams. The key is not slowing the ball down every possession after breaking the press. We shouldn’t count on hitting 3’s with this team, especially in that building. So getting to the foul line, getting the Gophers in foul trouble are my keys to the game.

  • TomJameson

    Would love to see that!!

  • Ole Man

    Hanner is due for a breakout. Let’s hope you’re right.

  • Jeeps Johnstone

    I fear the team will rely on Yogi to have the same type of game he had against Michigan. He has established himself as the ‘go to’ player. We definitely need more balance in the scoring department. It’s hard to tell how this game will play out. The Big Ten isn’t very predictable this year.

  • SCHoosier

    Yea the smell is unmistakable.

  • Dflahardy

    No, not a troll.. And I know about all those guys, I’m not saying victor is anywhere close to Calvert in college or Isaiah in the pros but he’s just getting started, I saw the play, did you? When it’s all said and done victor may very well be the best nba player that ever was a Hoosier,