When? Saturday, January 6 at 5:15 p.m. EST – ESPN2
Where? Williams Arena (#TheBarn), Minneapolis, Minnesota
Vegas? Minnesota (-7)
Pomeroy? Minnesota 80-70, 19% of Indiana Victory
Welcome back to Indiana Hoosiers basketball.
When we last left our heroes, they were turning in another lackluster performance, this time against the Wisconsin Badgers—a school that’s made beating Indiana at basketball into such an art form that one is tempted to commission a portrait of Bo Ryan, shirtless, riding a horse through Assembly Hall—the words “RESIGN ON YOUR TERMS” tattooed across his chest.
Now, Indiana faces the other side of the Paul Bunyan’s Axe Body Spray rivalry when they head to Minneapolis for a date with the University of Minnesota, who are taking a break from playing hockey tonight so that they can participate in a basketball game with our Hoosiers.are taking a break from playing hockey tonight so that they can participate in a basketball game with our Hoosiers.
The temperature outside will be a frigid 9 degrees, but the temperature inside will be HOT HOT HOT from the bad ventilation in Williams Arena and the Famous Dave’s takeout in section 108 so let’s DO THIS.
THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE FACTORS
|-||eFG%||TO%||Off. Reb %||FT Rate|
|-||eFG%||TO%||Off. Reb %||FT Rate|
|INDIANA (#65 adj. offense)||51.5% (145th)||18.6% (158rd)||35.1% (36th)||36.4% (110th)|
|PENN STATE (#16 adj. defense)||46.4% (32nd)||22.2% (35th)||26.6% (85th)||32.5% (155th)|
|PENN STATE (#82 adj. offense)||52.9% (96th)||18.8% (169th)||33.6% (60th)||33.7% (181st)|
|INDIANA (#151 adj. defense)||51.5% (206th)||19.5% (146th)||29.9% (218th)||31.1% (118th)|
Under the guidance of Richard Pitino, the Minnesota Golden Gophers are an efficient team that looks like it could be a force in the race for a B1G championship this season. Even without center Reggie Lynch, who has been suspended for violating the school’s sexual misconduct policy, the Golden Gophers will present the Hoosiers with much of what has given Indiana trouble thus far in the 2017-2018 season.
They have great pace to their game, yet even with their speed are one of the best teams in the country at limiting turnovers. Pair that with a top-20 offensive rebounding rate and a FG% over 50%, and it’s easy to see why Minnesota’s offense has established itself as one of the best in the country.
Their offense is balanced out by a solid defense that hinges on a phenomenal block percentage down low, and great, aggressive activity that—though not proficient at forcing turnovers—is allowing a stifling opponent eFG%.
Down low, it’s all gonna be up to Jordan Murphy tonight—as the junior looks to get his 17th straight double-double to start the season (which would tie Tim Duncan for the D1 record). The 6-6 junior has a 30.0 PER, is getting nearly 20 points per game, and has been an absolute force on the glass—nabbing 16.9% of the team’s offensive rebounds (6th in the nation) with a team-leading total rebounding rate of 20.7%.
Yet besides Murphy, things will be pretty thin without Lynch. Seniors Davonte Fitzgerald, Bakary Konate, and Gaston Diedhou have been all but non-factors for most of the season, amassing just a combined 85 points produced thus far.
In the backcourt, senior Nate Mason anchors a solid unit, but is one of only two Gophers with a 3-pt percentage above 40% (specifically 44.1%, if you care for such things). This stands in stark contrast to his back-up, freshman Isaiah Washington, who is… well he’s not as good at shooting (… 14.3%... he’s 14.3% from distance).
In fact, despite a respectable 3-pt FG% of 35%, they’re low individual numbers could contribute to the fact that they’re getting just 24.3% of their points from long range. For fans who’ve watched the Hoosiers give up points from deep at an alarming rate this season, this is a good sign.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
1. Can the Hoosiers take advantage down low? Despite Murphy’s dominance this season, the Hoosiers have plenty of talent in the front court that could cause plenty of match-up problems for the Gophers. I expect Murphy to line up against Juwan Morgan, but Freddie McSwain, along with the 6-7 Collin Hartman, could have possible opportunities against three defenders in Fitzgerald, Konate, and Diedhou. Despite solid numbers for these three, they haven’t played nearly the usage rate to make those numbers feel properly tested.
2. Shooting… Indiana’s shooting is bad (“HOW BAD IS IT?”). Indiana’s shooting is so bad that the Hoosiers are cracking just over 30% from 3-pt range as a team and if you take out Morgan and Davis’ production down low, their team eFG% is 46.6%, which would be good for 301st in the country (… comedy drum roll followed by soft crying). Of course, the good news is that we don’t need to take out Morgan and Davis, but if the Hoosiers are to get back on track in 2018, then Robert Johnson, Josh Newkirk, and Devonte Green need to right the ship. Otherwise, teams (most immediately the Golden Gophers) will just start crashing down on the blocks and treating everyone shorter than 6’5” for the Hoosiers like Ricky Rubio.
3. Some Saturday afternoon energy. To put it mildly, there have been times this season when the Hoosiers have come out flat—failing to show up for games and, at times, looking disinterested when the going gets tough. Saturday afternoons are notoriously low-energy affairs, so I’m setting the bar real low… Indiana just has to come out with some fire. This is made all the more imperative by the fact that Minnesota will try to run them early, so if they decide to just pop into Minneapolis for some Ray J’s famous wings and a few glasses of Surly Furious... it’s gonna be a long game to watch.
It’s this last point that has me worried about this game, folks. Similar to their experience against Louisville, the Hoosiers are going to be facing a team with speed and discipline on the court—along with an athletic big man who will challenge them on both ends.
It’s getting harder to use the whole “which Hoosiers team will we see” mantra at the moment, because as the discouraging games pile up, glimmers like Notre Dame or Duke become a little tougher to pin hopes on.
I’d love to be wrong on this, but if I’m just going what I’ve seen thus far this season, Indiana’s got a big task ahead of them, and they just haven’t proven that they’re up for it yet. Minnesota 83, Indiana 65
UPDATE: An earlier version of this story referred to De’Ron Davis playing today - however, as one of our fine commenters pointed out to this writer, Davis is out indefinitely with a lower leg injury.