JF

Golden Gophers vs. Indiana Hoosiers

8:00 (CST) at Williams Arena (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

Radio: WCCO 830 AM

TV: BTN

Tickets: Still a few obstructed seats left

Chatroom: I won’t be here, but if you are, stop by and discuss the game

As cruel as the Big Ten schedulers have been this season, giving the Gophers back to back games at Michigan State and Ohio State, they made up for it a bit by giving the Gophers a home game against an Indiana team minus all consequential contributors from last year, and thanks to Devon Dumes’…mental health issues… their leading scorer. This should be Minnesota’s easiest game of the season by far, and would be absolutely devastating if they somehow lost. For NCAA tournament purposes, this is a must win, but really, if the Gophers some how lose this one, they don’t belong in the tournament anyway.

Since this game should be a gimme, on paper at least, the Gophers should use this opportunity to work out the remaining kinks that have lingered on offense and to try some new combinations of players for extended minutes. Even if the line-ups are less than successful, it shouldn’t cost the Gophers a win. Of course none of these suggestions will come to fruition. Tubby Smith has shown the stubbornness typically associated with Division I basketball head coaches. If he makes changes he admits he was wrong. For whatever reason, being wrong is worse than losing. Luckily for me, I’m just a blogger with too much time on his hands, with no responsibility for the consequences of the changes that would hopefully take place.

Minnesota’s slow starts are soon to become a thing of legend. If the Gopher didn’t give their opponents a lead at the TV time out, imagine what their record would be. My suggested solution is the obvious one. It is time for a new starting line-up. Tubby Smith should start Devron Bostick and Paul Carter against Indiana, and leave them in the vast majority of the first half.

Carter brings an intensity and athleticism that is sorely missing when he is not on the court. He might not make all his shots, but at least he attacks the basket and most of his shots have a chance to go in. The alternative seems to be shot clock violations and shots that are never taken.

Devron Bostick has shown that with extended minutes he is capable of being an offensive force. Some players are mentally equipped to to be a spark off the bench while others need time to get going. Bostick appears to be the latter.  Bostick doesn’t play well off the bench, and he is often pulled after his first mistake. Yes, he can at times be a defensive liability, but defense is not an issue for the Gophers. Trading a bit of defense for any sort of offensive weapon would be net-positive for this team. If Bostick still struggles after playing extended minutes, the worst that would happen is that he doesn’t play well, which wouldn’t be a huge change. If he plays well and gains confidence though, it would be incredibly helpful for the team.

Speaking of having players on a short leash, it may be time to put Al Nolen on the Devron Bostick plan. Let him start, but institute some strict rules for him to remain on the court. If at any point he fails to have the offense set up with more than 25 seconds on the shot clock, pull him off the court. If he makes an unforced turnover, get rid of him. Devoe Joseph may not be ready to run an offense against typical Big Ten opponents, but Al Nolen hasn’t exactly been able to run an offense lately either.  At the very least, this approach would give Joseph some valuable experience and send a clear, impossible to miss signal to Al Nolen that more is expected of him.

Regardless of who is running the offense, the Gophers need to try out a few different schemes.  Almost anything would be better than what we have witnessed lately. Play all guards, or all centers, or all undersized power forwards. Run the Princeton offense, or the Grinell non-defense. Run an alley-oop to Blake Hoffarber on every play. Maybe just run a basic motion offense that the players would remember from seventh grade. Just run something though. Once again, none of these ideas are guaranteed to score more points, but with Minnesota’s current “offense” the alternative won’t be much worse.

Finally, just to prove to me that the Gophers are still the same team from earlier in the season, the Gophers should bring back their chaotic, intense, full court trapping defense. An effective, turnover producing defense has a way of solving all sorts of offensive problems. Again, why not bring it back?

The Gophers are running out of time to fix their problems, and the time to experiment ends tomorrow night. The other Big Ten teams are good enough to beat the Gophers, but not the Hoosiers unless the Gophers play their worst game of  season. Indiana just isn’t that good.

Indiana has one Big Ten win so far this season over Iowa at home. Obviously, a one win team will have all sorts of issues.  The Hoosiers are dreadful on offense, scoring .95 points per game. They are slightly below average when shooting behind the three point line, though their second best outside shooter is suspended indefinitely. Inside the three point line they make only46% of their shots. They make only two-thirds of their free throws, though they get to the line an average amount. Ralph Sampson and Colton Iverson will be licking their lips knowing that Indiana has had more shots blocked than any team in the country, and commits more turnovers than all but three teams. Surpringly, at least for a team with so few wins, the Hoosiers rebound offensively slightly above average. On defense Indiana forces a lot of turnovers, but that is about it. They can’t defend the two or the three or block shots. They do rebound well defensively though, so they have that going for them.

Keys for the Gophers

1. Find an offense that works. Really, anything will do.

2. Limit turnovers. There are good turnovers, resulting from aggressiveness, and bad turnovers, resulting from mental lapses. Minnesota’s turnover total has been creeping up for all the wrong reasons.

3. Find five players who can work well together.

Keys for the Hoosiers

1. Limit Minnesota’s points in the paint.

2. Win the battle of the boards.

3. Keep playing hard. Good things happen to the team with the better effort.

Key Players for the Gophers

1. Blake Hoffarber needs to show that his shot really is back.

2. Al Nolen needs to show he is an offensive asset.

3. Paul Carter needs to shoot above 50%.

Key Players for the Hoosiers

1. Matt Roth can get going from the outside, and if he does, look out. In Indiana’s loss to Ohio State he scored 29 points on 9-11 three point shooting.

2. Tom Pritchard is Indiana’s active scoring and rebounding leader.

3. Malik Story had his best game of the season against the Gophers in Bloomington.

Prediction: Indiana hasn’t won on the road yet, and they won’t at The Barn on Thursday. Gophers 64 Indiana 50.