University of Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. North Dakota State Bison

1:00 pm (CST) at Williams Arena

Radio: WCCO 830 AM

Tv: Big Ten Network

Tickets: Row 26 behind the basket in the lower deck

Liveblog: Not this time. I’ll be at a wedding.

A few years back the Gophers decided to make a conscious effort to play “local” Division I teams. In some states this would have created rivalries, or at the very least some intriguing match-ups against well established mid-major programs. For the Gophers, it means playing teams from the Dakotas

North Dakota State comes into today’s game with some significant struggles. They beat Northern Arizona on the road, but lost at Idaho, who lost to the same Eastern Washington team that the Gophers destroyed on Wednesday. One must always be careful trying to glean great truths when comparing common opponents, but at this stage in the season there isn’t much else to go on.

The Bison play the fastest game of any Gopher opponent so far this season, averaging roughly 74 possessions per game. The Gophers have picked up the pace in recent wins over Colorado State and Eastern Washington, but they are still a full 9 possessions per game slower. Unlike most of the teams the Gophers have faced, North Dakota state makes the most out of these possessions scoring 107 points per 100 possessions. They do this, unsurprisingly, by making their shots, and they rank  90th in the country in three point field goal percentage (slightly worse than the Gophers) and 24th in two point accuracy. However, as would be expected for a team that has lost to Eastern Washington, they can give up plenty of points too, ranking close to 300th in the country in terms of field goal percentage allowed and points given up per 100 possession. They also give the ball away, which certainly does now help their defense, turning the ball over on 1 out of every 4 possessions.

Keys for the Gophers

  1. Press early and often. North Dakota State gives the ball away even when they aren’t pressured.
  2. Dump the ball inside. Ralph Sampson III and Colton Iverson dominated Eastern Washington. The Gophers need to make sure this was not a fluke
  3. Make free throws. This game, for whatever reason, could be more competitive than it looks on paper, and missed free throws are the easiest way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Keys for the Bison

  1. Hang on to the ball. Minnesota thrives on turnovers. The Bison like to commit turnovers. If they give the ball away they are giving away the game.
  2. Limit the Gopher runs, and get one of their own. Their should be a sizable Bison presense in The Barn, especially with all the Christmas shopping opportunities within half an hour drive of today’s game. Their fans could be a factor.
  3. Make the Gophers work on offense. Its been said before, but the Gophers are still a work in progress on the offensive end.

Key Players for the Gophers

  1. Colton Iverson dismantled the short Eastern Washington interior defense. North Dakota State is even shorter.
  2. Ralph Sampson has looked much better on both ends. Today should be another confidence builder.
  3. Speaking of confidence, Devron Bostick played his best game of the season on Wednesday, and should have plenty of minutes to show for it today.

Key Players for the Bison

  1. Ben Woodside is one of the few players the Gophers will face this season who can single-handedly keep his team in the game. He shoots an outstanding 58% from behind the three point line. If he gets going, anything can happen.
  2. Brett Winkelman is the Bison’s other legitimate offensive threat, averaging 17 points per game. He can score both inside and outside.
  3. Lucas Moormann doesn’t get a lot of minutes, but at 6’10” he may be called on to go after the Gophers twin towers.

Prediction: Even though it doesn’t seem warrented, this game looks like trouble, especially with the potential of Woodsidepalooza in The Barn. However, despite what could be some ridiculous numbers from the Bison sharpshooter, the Gophers should still win 78-73.

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