After four tough losses, Minnesota tries to win its first conference game against Iowa.
Opponent: Iowa Hawkeyes
When: 8pm CST
Where: Williams Arena
Part of what has made the early conference season so frustrating is that the Gophers have been close late before collapsing. Is this a case of Minnesota simply not being lucky? While that would follow nicely from Gopher fandom, I'm less clear. What is certainly true so far is that the Gophers have been unable to finish games against good opponents. Iowa is the 44th team in the country according to KenPom, and playing very well of late. The Hawkeyes also have a quality win over North Carolina. Nonetheless, the Gophers will not be over-matched by the Hawkeyes. Absent any keys to the style of play, the biggest issue for Minnesota is mental.
2. Who starts?
Pitino is potentially shaking up the line-up to start Gaston Diedhiou. That's a large vote of confidence for a player that has yet to see the floor this season since being admitted. From a basketball perspective, this make sense. The Hawkeyes are big and deep, and the Gophers can use all the added size they can muster. If Diedhiou starts, I have no idea what kind of player he will be, and how his presence will change Minnesota's system.
3. Transition Points
Fortunately for the Gophers, the Hawkeyes are terrible three-point shooters and have a tendency to turn the ball over. Josh Oglesby is having a particularly bad season, attempting over 7 threes again and shooting only 27%. Oglesby and Jared Uthoff are the most likely shooters from deep, and only Oglesby attempts more than 50% of his shots from long range. Minnesota has performed well against that blueprint this season, and assuming the Gophers can make shots, will have lots of opportunities to aggressively press.
More possessions in transition means less time for Iowa to get set on defense. The Hawkeyes have been a good defensive team, and will certainly prevent the Gophers from getting into the lane. Minnesota is unlikely to win a game this year bombing from deep. Getting easy shot opportunities will be at a premium tonight.
- Gophers win 70-66 to pick up their first win of the season. They do so in a fashion that is sublime and insanely frustrating in equal measure.
- I will make multiple Gaston! jokes.
- The Gophers shoot 70% from the free throw line. This is more a hope than a prediction.