#20 Golden Gophers vs. Indiana Hoosiers

11:00 am (CST) at Assembly Hall (Bloomington, Indiana)

Radio: WCCO 830 AM

TV: Big Ten Network

Liveblog: Starting half an hour before the game.

And so begins the rest of the season. With expectations more in line with reality, and still a very realistic chance to make the NCAA tournament, the Gophers will travel to Indiana to face a team whose season is already lost. Even with Minnesota’s recent struggles, a road game in Indiana may be exactly what they need to find a bit of confidence and get back on track.

Everyone knows about last season’s miracle win in the NCAA tournament against the heavily favored Hoosiers. What may have been lost among the more casual fans of college basketball is that that may have been the high point in the Hoosiers program since then. Since then, everything has fallen apart. Virtually Indiana’s entire roster has been replaced. They have a new coach, Tom Crean formerly of Marquette. What they don’t have is many wins. No team could survive so much turmoil, not even a program as steeped in history as the Hoosiers.

Indiana comes into Sunday’s game with a 5-12 overall record and no wins so far in the conferece. Their best win came over TCU, the Mountain West Conference leaders. Their worst loss came at home against Lipscomb. Despite Indiana’s poor record, the Gophers will have to show up ready. As Michigan found out in their overtime game in Bloomington, the Hoosiers will not let their lack of talent get in the way of an excellent effort, and one of these days the Hoosiers will win one. Hopefully not for a while though.

This will be unlike any Indiana team you have ever seen. They play at about the same speed as the Gophers, but that is where the similarities stop. They average only .9 points per possession, ranking 300th in the country. They commit the third most turnovers in the entire country, are an average offensive rebounding team, and get to the free throw line about as often as Minnesota. They are a dreadful outside shooting team, and like the Gophers, shoot more three-pointers than they really should.

The news doesn’t get much better for the Hoosiers on defense. They rely almost exclusively on forcing turnovers, and do so on 22% of their opponents possessions. If their opponents can take care of the ball, they can take care of the Hoosiers. Indiana allow 36.4% shooting behind  the three point line and 52.1% inside the three point line. This is just what the Gophers need to find their confidence again.

Keys for the Gophers

1. Be patient on offense. When Minnesota’s shots are falling, they tend to take bad shots early in the shot clock, drive out of control into the lane, or force passes in double and triple teams. If the offense get stuck, the Gophers need to make an even greater effort to take good shots.

2. Only nine players should see court. I don’t care which nine players get the most minutes as long as a definitive rotation develops. The Gophers have been playing too many players for too many minutes, causing confusion and a lack of chemistry. It can be tempting to shuttle in new players the second someone makes a mistake, but the lack of continuity increases the likelihood of even more mistakes.

3. Force turnovers and score in transition. With Minnesota’s half-court offense problems, scoring off the break becomes even more important. Indiana commits a lot of turnovers, so this may take care of itself.

Keys for the Hoosiers

1. Slow it down. Speed usually creates turnovers. The Gophers will try to run. If Indiana follows they will be run off the court. Indiana needs to take Iowa’s approach. Minnesota looks bad if they are forced to play in the half court.

2. Hold on to the ball. Indiana just can’t afford to give away chances to score.

3. Shut down the inside. The Gophers shoot an alarming amount of three pointers when they lack interior scoring. The way they have been shooting, these outside shots function like turnovers. Indiana has more than just a chance to win if the Gophers shoot as many three-pointers as poorly as they have lately.

Key Players for the Gophers

1. Al Nolen needs to get his teammates involved.

2. Colton Iverson needs to play meaningful minutes, especially after half time.

3. Blake Hoffarber needs to find his stroke.

Key Players for the Hoosiers

1. Deven Dumes is Indiana’s leading scorer, but has twice as many turnovers than assists.

2. Tom Pritchard averages 7.6 rebounds per game, and is by far Indiana’s best interior player.

3. Nick Williams has scored in double figures in all but one Big Ten game.

Prediction: Minnesota’s horrible shooting was mostly an anomaly. Even bad shooting teams on bad shooting nights can make a third of their shots. Indiana’s dreadful defense is just what the Gophers need to get back on track, and they do comfortably, at least by road game standards in the Big Ten. Minnesota 77 Indiana 61