Tell me of the team Muse, the team of twists and turnovers driven time and again off course with poor free throw shooting and porous three point defense, once they arrived in the hallowed heights of Chicago.
Or something like that. Minnesota takes on Rutgers in their first game of the Big Ten Tournament.
Opponent: Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Where: United Center, Chicago as it was meant to be
When: 6pm CST
Watch: Through your fingers, BTN
The Gophers opened Senior Day at the Barn listlessly, and that lack of energy early on ended up costing them against an inferior opponent. A similar performance will also cost them against Rutgers. Rutgers is bad, very bad. The Scarlet Knights won just two games in Big Ten play, though one of them was against Wisconsin. They turn the ball over frequently, have a difficult time scoring, can't shoot, and give up a ton of offensive boards. Even with all of that, if the Gophers have decided to pack the season away and focus on next year, the Scarlet Knights have a good chance to get an upset. Minnesota must come out dominant to begin with and put the game away early. If they do so, the Scarlet Knights will fold because they really have nothing to play for.
2. Generate Turnovers
As mentioned, this should not be difficult. Rutgers turns the ball over one out of every five possessions this season, and the Gophers are still an elite team at stealing the ball. The Scarlet Knights play a little faster than the D1 average, and will probably be willing to get in an up tempo game with the Gophers. That should open up more opportunities for the press and traps to be effective. Joey King should have a field day on trailing threes from the secondary break. More importantly, the more time the Gophers are in transition, the less time they have to be in their half court offense. Rutgers is a surprisingly good defensive team, ranking in the top 3rd of the country, so the less time Minnesota has to play half court offense, the better.
3. Feed the Post
Against poor competition, Mo Walker has been nigh unguardable this season. Minnesota began to have success against Penn State when they recognized the mismatch and fed the post. If Walker did not score, he went to the foul line. A similar strategy should happen against Rutgers. In any situation where Rutgers chooses to play man to man defense, the ball should make its way immediately to the low post.
This does not only have to mean go to Walker. Bakary Konate will assuredly see minutes tonight, and he has shown the beginning development of a solid post game. Konate's athleticism and height give him an ability to create space for a baby hook shot, and the freshman has done a good job at maintaining post position once established. Minnesota should reward him for the effort and find him down low.
- Minnesota wins 72-60.
- Gaston Diedhiou shoots a shockingly silly three pointer.
- Pitino elects to play returners extensively.