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Indiana men’s basketball: Previewing Minnesota

Hello Dawson, my old friend

NCAA Basketball: Minnesota at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Year two of the Post-Pitino era is not going terribly well for the Minnesota Golden Gophers, who sit at 7-11 overall and dead last in the Big Ten at 1-7. Head coach Ben Johnson was active in the transfer portal, getting two of his top three scorers this year from other schools, but it hasn’t translated to on-court success so far.

For a team that finished second to last in the conference in scoring last year, a full roster rebuild was perhaps in order. That said, nobody was expecting Johnson to have this thing turned around this year, so the lack of success is not a disappointment, per se.

The Gophers do have some high-level talent that could sneak up on Indiana if the Hoosiers sleepwalk through the game, as they seemed to against Penn State and Northwestern. If everything goes to plan though, this should be the easiest game left on the schedule for Indiana.

Here’s what you need to know about the Golden Gophers:

The Wins

Well, there are seven of them. One of them happened to have come against a high-major opponent, Ohio State.

What makes the Ohio State game more impressive is that the game was played in Columbus, giving the Golden Gophers their first and only true road win on the season. On the other hand, it came in the midst of a five game losing streak with the Buckeyes in their annual midseason tailspin.

If you could call Minnesota’s record this year an NCAA Tournament resume, the Ohio State win would undoubtedly be the crown jewel. They would also, then, have to contend with the fact that their next best win came against Kenpom No. 135 Cal Baptist.

Minnesota also escaped a close game with Chicago State at the Barn, eking out a three point win over the visiting Cougars, who come in at 295th in Kenpom.

The Losses

Minnesota’s worst loss of the year came in mid November, when they lost 69-53 to the visiting DePaul Blue Demons. Outside of that and a home loss to Purdue in which the Gophers scored fewer than 40 points, Minnesota has been competitive in a handful of their losses to high major opponents.

In what was probably the best argument in favor of abolishing Big Ten Basketball, Minnesota took a visiting Nebraska team to overtime before falling 81-79. Add in two one-possession games against Wisconsin and Illinois and a four point home loss to Michigan, and it’s clear that Minnesota has come close to notching a couple more upsets this season.

Indiana will need to play like Michigan did in Ann Arbor, when it beat Minnesota 90-75, rather than Michigan on the road for things to be as comfortable as Indiana fans want it to be.

The Team

The Gophers are led by Dawson Garcia, a name who should be familiar to Indiana fans after Archie Miller recruited him out of high school. He was a four-star player at the time, but chose Marquette before transferring to North Carolina and then to Minnesota.

Now with the Gophers, he’s averaging a career-high 14.9 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, shooting 32.3% from deep on 62 attempts. Jamison Battle, the team’s second leading scorer, leads the team in three-point attempts with 102, but is making them at just a 29.4% clip right now.

The Gophers are offensively challenged as a team, entering the game as the 261st most efficient offense in the country and hitting 32.1% from three, comfortably in the Archie Miller range from behind the arc. Minnesota is also hitting just 59.3% from the free throw line this year, putting them at 353rd in the country.

The biggest threat from the backcourt will be Ta’Lon Cooper, the transfer in from Morehead State who’s averaging 10.8 points and 5.7 assists per game. He’s by far Minnesota’s best three-point shooter at 49%, but has taken just 51 attempts this season.

Indiana will enter the game as the more talented team, given an 82% chance of victory by Kenpom and 79% by Bart Torvik. Barring a catastrophic performance, Race should be able to rest up and continue healing before Ohio State comes to Bloomington.