It’s must-win week in Bloomington, where Indiana is set to play a pair of crucial games against Minnesota and Michigan State. The Hoosiers currently seem to be on the good side of the bubble, but to stay there, they’ll need to hold serve in these winnable games at home.
First up? Gilded Rodentia.
Good luck trying to figure out the Gophers. Seriously, nothing on Minnesota’s nitty gritty report makes sense. Check it out:
- Minnesota beat Ohio State by 17 and throttled Michigan by 18.
- Minnesota owns five ranked wins, which is tied for the most in the country.
- Minnesota is the only Big Ten team without a road win, going 0-7 away from Williams Arena.
- Minnesota’s average margin of defeat outside of The Barn is 16.4 points.
See? Weird resume, one that puts Richard Pitino’s crew on Bubble Watch entering the season’s final stretch. So, yeah, both programs badly need a win on Wednesday. Then again, as outlined above, the Gophers have given no indication that they’re capable of winning outside of Minneapolis. Well, outside of a four-point defeat at Rutgers on Feb. 4. Their other six road losses have been by 27 at Illinois, 12 at Wisconsin, 25 at Michigan, 15 at Iowa, 19 at Purdue, and 13 at Maryland on Sunday.
Part of Minnesota’s problem is it can’t shoot, something that’s plagued the Gophers regardless of the venue. The team is making only 28.8% of its 3-pointers during conference play, though that hasn’t stopped the Gophers from chuckin’ them from deep. They’re averaging 25 3-point attempts per game this season — the most in the Big Ten. Yikes. What’s more, they’ve only had maybe one or two games where you could even call their long-range shooting ~good~. Things haven’t gone much better inside the arc, either. On 2-pointers, Minnesota is shooting only 45.4% in the league.
Defensively, Minnesota has been a disaster outside of The Barn. When the Gophers are wearing their road uniforms, opposing teams are hitting 45% of their 3s and 56% of their 2s while averaging 80 points per game. Minnesota is also a middling rebounding team that’s gotten burned on the offensive glass.
It’s not all bad, of course. There are some good Gophers on the roster. Marcus Carr ranks fourth in the Big Ten with 19.4 points per game. The redshirt junior guard had an uncharacteristically quiet game at Maryland on Sunday, scoring only nine points. It was just the second time this season that Carr didn’t reach double figures. With Carr struggling, Jamal Mashburn Jr. stepped up with 14 points, including a couple 3-pointers. Mashburn has been playing well on the offensive end of late, averaging 10.2 points over the past four games.
Forward Liam Robbins, a transfer from Drake, has been a nice addition for the Gophers. The junior has scored in double figures 15 times this season, while grabbing five or more rebounds 16 times. Minnesota is 5-2 when he records at least 15 points and five rebounds in a game. Sophomore Tre’ Williams is a recent addition to the starting five, taking the bulk of Both Gach’s minutes. Gabe Kalscheur posted 16 points and eight boards two games ago against Purdue, and reserve forward Isaiah Ihnen is coming off a solid performance against the Terps. Ihnen posted 12 points, seven boards and two blocks on Sunday.
Things to watch
How does IU start?
Indiana has been objectively awful across the opening stretches of games this month. How bad? Here’s a tweet:
Might there be a change to the starting lineup? Might there be an added emphasis on getting Trayce Jackson-Davis going as soon as possible? We’ll see.
It’s not clear what, if anything, Minnesota will be able to get from Liam Robbins in this one. Robbins injured his ankle against Purdue last week and played only 18 minutes on Sunday at Maryland. If Robbins can’t go, Minnesota will hope the lot of Ihnen, Brandon Johnson and Eric Curry can fill in.
It’s been a tough go for Rob Phinisee on the offensive side of the floor. But this could be a good matchup for the junior — on the defensive end, that is. Phinisee was very good on Marcus Carr in IU’s two wins over Minnesota last season, holding the Gophers’ lead guard to a combined 18 points on 5-of-17 shooting. With all of the offensive issues Phinisee has endured, it’d be great if another impactful defensive performance on Carr gave him a quick confidence boost.
Game Info / How to Watch
Who? Minnesota (13-8, 6-8) at Indiana (11-9, 6-7)
Where? Assembly Hall, Bloomington, Ind.
When? Wednesday, 9 p.m. Eastern
Channel? BTN | Brandon Gaudin (p-b-p), Stephen Bardo (analyst)
Radio? IU Radio Network; Sirius 106, XM 196, Internet 958: Don Fischer, Errek Suhr & Joe Smith
Vegas? Indiana -5