USA TODAY Sports
The Gophers hit the road for what is the first of back-to-back games at Assembly Hall (Champaign then Bloomington). This first one is a place where we haven't played very well in the last 35 years! In my lifetime (I was born in 1977) the Gophers have won twice at Illinois. But previous meetings are pretty much irrelevant now. Time for the third win in Champiagn in my lifetime.
Game Time: 8:00
Radio: AM1500 and the Gopher Radio Network
|Pos||#8 - Minnesota||Pnt/Gm||Pnt/Gm||#12 - Illinois
|C||Trevor Mbakwe||8.8||6.6||Nnanna Egwu||C
|Bench||Maverick Ahanmisi||5.0||9.3||Joseph Bertrand||Bench|
||Julian Welch||3.7||3.9||Sam McLaurin||Bench|
This is arguably the most dangerous backcourt in the conference (Michigan's is pretty good too) against what is arguable the most dangerous frontcourt in the conference (apologies to Indiana and Wisconsin). Paul and Richardson are both very experienced and incredibly talented. Add to that the fact that Tracy Abrams is coming into his own and becoming the legit #2 scoring threat for the Illini.
Inside Egwu is improving weekly and is coming off his best game of the season where he scored a career high 16 to go with 8 rebounds in the Illinois win over Ohio State. Tyler Griffey is their other forward but is more of a shooter than a banger.
Rodney Williams being defended by Griffey might be the match-up that favors Minnesota the most while Brandon Paul vs. Andre Hollins might be where Illinois has an advantage.
|KenPom Efficiency Stats||Minnesota (9)
|Pnt / Poss||1.154 (11)||1.100 (30)|
|Def Pnt / Poss||0.869 (17)
|Def eFG%||43.0% (23)
|Off Reb %||49.7% (1)||34.0%|
|Def Reb %||65.0% (276)
|TO %||21.9%||18.0 (49)|
Based on the numbers above the Gophers have one distinct advantage that presents a clear and present danger to the Illini. We crush the offensive glass and Illinois has not been very good at defensive rebounding. Our strength vs. their biggest weakness should result in about a 75% offensive rebounding percent right? I'm not so sure. Often when an advantage is that clear it is going to be highly emphasized by the Illini coaching staff to the point where Illinois might actually take away this domination. On the other hand, this is what we do. We get our hands on extra possessions all night long via the offensive glass. Will tonight be one where we set some records with offensive rebounding? No, but we will still get our fair share and this will be a key to tonight's win.
Outside of rebounding I think how well we defend the perimeter is going to be vital. Illinois's spread ball-screen offense is tough to defend and allows for quite a few open looks at three. The Illini get 37% of their points from threes, compare that to Minnesota getting only 20% from behind the line. When a Big Ten team is at home and getting open looks from three, they often will roll to a big win.
There are two critical factors tonight. Control the glass and don't give up wide open threes. I care less about things like turnovers, scoring in the paint and cutting off penetration as I will for other games. When Illinois isn't given wide open looks and when they give up a lot of offensive rebounds, they lose.