Gametime: 11 a.m. central time (wake up early!!!!)
Television: Big Ten Network
Internet Coverage: Here at TDG one hour before the game.
After dropping back to back winnable games--at Northwestern and in The Barn against Purdue--the Gophers find themselves in a must-win situation at Indiana Sunday if they want to go dancing come March.
And what Tubby Smith told Tom Powers of the Pioneer Press was true, we could see a different game plan on offense against the Hoosiers. With the Gophers struggling to gain traction with perimter play, Tubby is now (finally?) saying that the Gophers might need to establish a stronger interior game.
"It's probably time to go to an offense that makes us go inside," Smith said calmly.
I very much hope this materializes Sunday. The Gophers can be an OK inside-out team. Colton Iverson and Ralph Sampson III have both showed some ability to be at least a decent threat inside. Additionally, Damian Johnson can score with his back to the basket and Paul Carter should have that ability as well.
This isn't a must-win because the Gophers need to avert losing three straight. This is a must win because Indiana is 0-5 in conference play. This is a must-win because the Gophers really must sweep Indiana this season if they deserve to make the NCAA Tournament. And while Indiana is obviously down, that doesn't mean Tom Crean's team is going to roll over.
Junior guard Devan Dumes leads the Hoosiers with 12 points per game. Freshman forward Tom Pritchard leads all Big Ten freshman in scoring (12.4) and rebunding (7.4). And the Hoosiers also have a nice young point guard, a player those of you who follow recruiting will remember, in Verdell Jones. Jones picked Indiana over Minnesota to the surprise of some and, despite being setback earlier this year by an injury, has looked every bit like a player who can develop into a top-line conference point guard.
Keys for MInnesota:
1) Create turnovers and score in transition: I know this sounds like a broken record, but there's not getting around. When the Gophers aren't turning their opponent over and scoring quickly, they struggle mightily in the half-court. Indiana commits 18 tunovers per game, so there should be ample opportunity to run.
2) Composure on the road: Let's face it, the Gophers haven't played solid basketball during too many stretches on the road this year. The team came back to beat Colorado State. The team was awful for most of the game against Iowa and Wisconsin before coming back to salvage wins. But their sloppiness on the road hurt against Northwestern. Hopefully the team is reminded that every posession counts and we won't see stretches of careless basketball as we did against Northwestern.
3) Shooting: If the cold shooting that we saw against Purdue persists, the Hoosiers really can pull off an upset. Someone needs to step up and start making shots from the perimeter. Maybe it's Devoe Joseph? Maybe Blake Hoffarber will think back to his memorable moment from last year's conference tournament. On the season, the Gophers are a team that is shooting 46 percent (less than 30 against Purdue). If the Gophers shoot near their season average, they will win.
Prediction: If this were at home, I'd look at this as a get-well type of game. But on the road, Indiana will be looking to grab a win against a ranked team. The Gophers have no momentum. The team is probably doubting themselves after back-to-back losses. All that said, the Gophers have more talent then this Hoosiers team. It will be ugly for awhile, but the Gophers win by 12 to 20.