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Gophers at Penn State in Big Ten Action - OPEN THREAD

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport

Gophers hit the road for the first time in conference play with an opportunity to get a Big Ten win.

Time: 6:00 CST
Radio: AM 1500 ESPN

Pos. Minnesota Golden Gophers Pnt/Gm Pnt/Gm Penn St. Nittany Lions Pos.
PG Deandre Mathieu 11.3 16.9 Tim Frazier PG
G Andre Hollins 15.9 18.0 D.J. Newbil G
G Austin Hollins 13.0 10.8 Brandon Taylor F
F Oto Osenieks 7.0 10.6 Ross Travis F
F Elliott Eliason 6.2 7.5 Donovon Jack F
Bench Malik Smith 9.9 6.3 Allen Roberts Bench
Bench Joey King 7.1 2.0 Graham Woodward Bench
Bench Daquein McNeil 1.9 2.6 Geno Thorpe Bench

A couple of Minnesota kids are featured on this Nittany Lion club, this usually concerns me. In fact Penn State has more Minnesota kids on it's roster than Minnesota does. Woodward typically is getting between 4-8 minutes per game, I don't expect he'll go off for a huge night. But Ross Travis is tough on the interior, particularly as a rebounder. He is capable of a solid double-double, which he has done a few times this year. But he is also prone to games like their recent loss to Illinois where he was 0-7 from the floor with 4 rebounds in 31 minutes played (or 2 pts and 6 boards against Pitt). Solid player, not a guy who is going to beat you on his own.

The real matchup worth paying attention to tonight is both team's guards. Penn State is lead by their tandem of Frazier and Newbil, the Gophers are obviously lead by Hollins and Hollins. If either pair gets hot they are capable of carrying their team to a win. If these four essentially cancel each other out then the Gophers will need Mathieu and Eliason to do more damage than the next best options for PSU.

Efficiency Stats (national rank in parenthesis if significant)

Minnesota (40) Penn State (94)
Off PPP 1.147 (24) 1.098
Def PPP 1.001 1.035
Off TO% 17.2% 14.6% (16)
Def TO% 20.1% 15.1% (328)
Off Reb % 37.0% 27.6%
Def Reb % 69.5% 71.1%

The number that jumps out at me is the fact that Penn State does not turn teams over, ranking 328th out of 351 teams. This is good for the Gophers. We may not turn Penn State over but in a road environment is where I fear we would turn it over more, giving up precious possessions. They also do not hit the offensive boards very well. So here again, they are not going things to give themselves extra possessions meaning they need to be more efficient scorers.

Keys to a Gopher Win

The Backcourt -
I want to see Hollins and Hollins (and Mathieu) dominate. I don't think they need to significantly outplay the PSU combo of Frazier and Newbil, really just play relatively even with them. With the way Mathieu and Eliason have been playing, I'll take my chances that those two will outplay their counterparts. But I'd rather not have to worry about it with Hollins and Hollins combining for 40 points tonight.

Maroon_key_mediumDon't Give Away Possessions - Typically I think it is of the utmost importance that we generate possessions. Tonight, just don't give them away. Penn State is not very good at forcing turnovers and they are not very good at offensive rebounding. Just don't give them an edge they don't typically earn. Make them earn it in the half-court and hopefully our pressure will generate a few extra turnovers. But the key, particularly on the road, is not to give possessions away. Do our thing defensively and possessions may come, don't give them away.

Ken Pom says we are a 56% favorite to win the game, on the road. This is a pretty big game if the Gophers want to be on the NCAA bubble. I feel good about this game tonight, don't try to do too much and I think we win.