The Indiana Hoosiers hit the road after having nearly a week off. IU heads to Minnesota tonight to face the Golden Gophers.
The Hoosiers desperately need to start stringing wins together, and after defeating Michigan last weekend, losing at Minnesota would be a big disappointment. Its unreasonable to expect Yogi Ferrell to save this team every week, so a group effort tonight is a must.
Minnesota starts off a stretch of games that the Hoosiers must, and should, win. They host Penn State in four days, and then head to West Lafayette to face Purdue. If IU really thinks it belongs in the NCAA Tournament, they need a clean sweep of these games. Outside of these three games, there are only two more on the schedule that favor IU.
Wins are always at a premium in the Big Ten, and the Hoosiers need upsets and road W’s to make the postseason. For now, we focus on Minnesota (15-8, 4-6).
The Gophers are in the middle of a three game losing streak having most recently lost an ugly game in triple OT at Purdue. Scoring leader Andre Hollins missed two of those games with an ankle injury and clearly wasn’t 100-percent against the Boilermakers.
The Hollins brothers, Austin and Andre, do the bulk of the damage against opponents. The backcourt duo averages nearly 27 points per game, with Austin Hollins hauling in six rebounds and Andre dishing out just under three assists a night.
After the lockdown Ferrell put on Nik Stauskas last week, I’d fully expect him to be on Andre all night (or whichever Minnesota guard that starts having success). This is also a good game for the Hoosiers to utilize that surprisingly effective 3-2 zone defense. Minnesota has too many players who can score effectively, but their frontcourt isn’t utilized much in the offensive gameplan.
There are a fair number of similarities between the Gophers and Wolverines. Both have a very good offense, and an average defense. For Minnesota, they have the 21st ranked offense and the 107th defense. The Hoosiers offense isn’t all that great, but they have the 18th most efficient defense in the country (and it can shut down a top tier offense, as we saw last week).
Noah Vonleh‘s presence is going to be key tonight. He has to have a big game rebounding the ball as the Gophers are extremely good at offensive rebounding. As mentioned before, their bigs are not a feature of the offense. They are their to snag boards and give Minnesota second chances. The Gophers love mid range jumpers, as opposed to three’s or post shots, and it plays into the rebounding abilities of this team.
A win not only helps the Hoosiers tournament chances, but also puts them at .500 in the conference for the first time this season. If IU wins, then finishing third in the conference is a very real possibility, and that means a more favorable matchup to open the Big Ten Tournament.
Consistency has been an issue for IU all season. It usually is when you have a young team. If the Hoosiers are going to get better it starts today by proving last week was no fluke. You don’t just beat a top 10 team by 11 points on a whim. There is a lot of talent on this team, and its time to start acting like it.
I like the Hoosiers to eek out a close win. Minnesota might be more desperate, but Vonleh will clean up on the glass and the Gophers won’t be able to stop Ferrell. IU’s defense will keep the Gophers once dominant offense struggling.
IU wins and starts streaking in the Big Ten.