The melancholy joys of watching the Gophers defeat Rutgers have passed. For as fans who have suffered much this season must know the road gets tougher from here. The Big Ten Tournament journey continues as the Gophers face Ohio State in the second round.
Opponent: Ohio State Buckeyes
Where: United Center
When: 8pm CST
Watch: ESPN2, curled in the fetal position.
1. More Production from Andre Hollins
Rutgers being Rutgers, Hollins zero points did not materially affect the outcome of the game, particularly when Joey King was doing his best Hoffarber impression. The same result is unlikely to be true against Ohio State. The Buckeyes are obviously a much better team overall, but also defensively. In their only matchup of the season, Hollins had 12 points on 3-13 shooting. A similar performance against Ohio State tonight is likely to lead to the same result, a Minnesota loss.
Regression to the mean is a powerful concept, and there is reason to expect Hollins to perform better tonight than yesterday. First, most of the shots that he attempted against Rutgers were "good" shots. That is, they were frequently open and in rhythm.It was not until later he started forcing tough runners. Second, Hollins has been excellent for most of the second half of the season. A return to form should be expected.
2. Guard D'Angelo Russell in the First Half
D'Angelo Russell made himself some money against the Gophers in the first half of the last meeting. The freshman phenom was nigh unguardable, probably because Minnesota's defense did that thing where it becomes a sieve for many possessions in a row. In an NBA arena, Russell will certainly be in attack mode. However, outside of Russell, Ohio State does not have an extensive array of weapons. Granted, that last sentence is a bit like saying outside of the aircraft carriers the Navy isn't very powerful. Nonetheless, if Minnesota can play a full forty minutes of defense like the second half of the first matchup, the Gophers will be in a position to win.
3. Avoid Silly Mistakes
Here is a non-exhaustive list of mistakes:
- Failing to crash the boards and/or ignoring defensive rebounding responsibilities. The rims at the United Center go long, and against Rutgers Minnesota's guards were not in position to get them. Rutgers is fortunately Rutgers, but Ohio State will make the Gophers pay for being lax.
- Silly turnovers. Maybe this is a pass going through a player's hands. Maybe it is a missed read in an offensive set. Maybe it is an exciting third category that has not happened this season. Whatever form they take, silly turnovers mean empty possessions, and underdogs cannot afford empty possessions.
- Early, low efficiency shots taken early in transition. Minnesota has the capacity to be a deadly transition team if everyone maintains spacing and works to get a good shot. If players pull out for a 19 footer or try a shot with a high degree of difficulty instead of making the correct pass to another open teammates, the Gophers will miss opportunities to get easy points, and therefore creating empty possessions.
- Ohio State by 8 if Russell has a good game. Minnesota by 1 if he plays atrociously.
- Pitino will not be wearing a jacket by the second half.
- Thanks to his previous performance, an Ohio State player bites on a Joey King fake more than once.