Minnesota travels to the Kohl Center to take on Wisconsin in the first of two games in two weeks for the ball clubs. If you've been wondering why there hasn't been more #HATEWEEK coverage, frankly it's because I've been depressed at the state of the team after the loss to Northwestern. One of the nice aspects of not being paid to do this job is that I never have to worry about being objective. Frankly, the Northwestern loss was a gut punch. That game confirmed every negative impression I have about the team.
Could a win over Wisconsin change that? Absolutely. It would be great if the spirit of Lawrence Westbrook would appear to carry the Gophers over an improbable win. I spent this evening watching the entirety of the Westbrook game, and it holds up very well.
Opponent: Wisconsin Badgers
Where: Kohl Center
When: 11:00am CST
1. Get Frank Kaminsky off the Floor
Frank Kaminsky legitimately has a chance to be the Naismith Winner this year, which is absolutely mind-blowing considering where he was two years ago. Of course, as we all laughed about at the time and since, Wisconsin lost to Rutgers when Kaminsky was unable to play. Unsurprisingly, the Swing did not become the most efficient offense in the world without a load of talent, and Kaminsky is the perfect big man for the system. Mo Walker has been rather quiet in the last few games on the offensive end. That kind of performance will not be enough to get an upset. Getting Kaminsky off the floor early is the first step to something improbable happening.
2. Increase the Variance on Offense
Upsets demand high variance strategies. Wisconsin is more talented than Minnesota and the Badgers preferred game looks a lot like Alabama football: slow, efficient, and absolutely insufferable. The way to beat them is to pick up the pace, get turnovers, and make shots, especially three pointers. Minnesota will need to have an excellent night from behind the arc. This does not just mean Andre Hollins, who should bounce back after a poor shooting night against the Wildcats. Every Gopher that can shoot the 3 will need to be on top of their game to beat Wisconsin.
Not that any of that will be easy. Wisconsin once again rarely turns the ball over, avoids making mistakes, and has a veritable treasure trove of awkward looking white guys who play the system to perfection.
3. Defend the Three
Someone, anyone, Bueller, Kendal Shell, actually contest a three point shot. The Gophers allowed Indiana to set a school record for made threes, and then followed it up by making Northwestern look like a competent offensive basketball team. Wisconsin is unequivocally better than both of those teams. The Badgers are the best offense in the country by three points per 100 possessions. They do so by creating a lot of open shots, first in the conference in 2pt FG% and 5th in the conference in 3pt FG%. Most of that has come against defenses that make more than a token effort to guard players stationed behind the arc.
Minnesota has been let down by their defense the past two games, but to be somewhat positive at least have the length to defend at a high level. The Gophers are very good at capitalizing on opponent's mistakes, and if they're able to come out and play defense like they did in the second half of the Ohio State game, this could be very interesting heading into the last three minutes.
- I refuse to make a prediction because doing so might indicate that I think Wisconsin will win and do so by a lot. KenPom thinks this is a 15 point Wisconsin win.
- Gaston Diedhiou makes a basket.
- Bo Ryan will look like the Grinch for extended periods of time.