Minnesota plays Purdue, a team that may not actually exist but supposedly sports a 7-3 conference record. At 3-7, Minnesota and Purdue's seasons have gone in opposite trajectories. Purdue has a legitimate chance to make the NCAA Tournament, while Minnesota is struggling to grab an NIT berth.
Opponent: Purdue Boilermakers
Where: Williams Arena
When: 2pm CST
1. Establish an inside game
This will not be an easy task. Purdue has two monsters in A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas are both legitimately seven footers with great length. In the first game, Minnesota had difficulty scoring or for that matter establishing on the low block. Purdue's front court will play physically again, but there is reason to think that the Gophers have a better chance this time. For one, the game is being played at Williams Arena, which is might as well be the Fortress of Solitude for Minnesota's offense. The Gophers perform dramatically better at home than on the road, particularly Mo Walker who averages 3 more points per game at the Barn than on the road.
Of course, the Gophers need more than just Walker. Some combination of Joey King, Bakary Konate, Elliott Eliason, and Charles Buggs need to provide a second option. Minnesota has an excellent chance to win if they can get Purdue's bigs in foul trouble.
2. Shoot Well from Deep
Minnesota lost by 4 points at Purdue, but put themselves in position to win by shooting 50% from distance. Minnesota will need a similar performance on Saturday. It's true that the team can become a little too in love with the three point shot, but the Gophers are unlikely to get easy shots inside. Consequently, their best hope for a win is another hot shooting day from deep.
In this regard, they'll get some help from a Purdue team that has struggled to defend the three all year. The Boilermakers are 247th in the country in opponent's three point percentage, and most of those shots are relatively uncontested. Purdue's defensive identity is preventing easy shots at the rim, and they seem rather unwilling to extend their defense.
3. Win the Free Throw Factor
I might as well copy and paste from previous previews, but it is no less the case in this game. Why asks the person who has never watched this year's Gopher basketball team? Good question random person. In the last game at Purdue, Minnesota shot 70% from the line which is depressingly a very good number. Purdue made two more free throws than the Gophers attempted. Purdue won by two possessions. The Gophers can win this in one of two ways: play great defense that limits fouls or get Purdue to foul. The Boilermakers are a slightly below average fouling team, but the best bet is still for Minnesota to play good defense.
Purdue is a terrible three point shooting team. The Boilermakers shoot rarely, and make them even less. Expect to see a tremendous amount of 2-3 zone to keep Purdue on the perimeter. The defensive key to watch is whether Purdue can find the soft spots of the zone. Minnesota's backline must remain engaged on each defensive possession to avoid a poor performance.
- Minnesota by 2. Yes, Purdue is 7-3 on the season, but this is a road game in the Big Ten. Minnesota has been playing better of late, and is a dramatically better team at home. KenPom has this as a 73-68 Minnesota win with a 69% probability, but Minnesota's numbers are a bit inflated because of non-conference play. If you believe that the Gophers' conference schedule is more representative of their ability, the result is more or less a pick em (Minnesota with a 55% to win). As per usual, I pick Minnesota in toss ups because I am a homer.
Andre Hollins makes at least 4 three pointers.
- Charles Buggs has a highlight reel dunk followed by a turnover.
- Pitino throws his jacket before the second half under-16 time out.