Since the last meeting between Minnesota and Wisconsin, both teams have defeated Michigan State. Wisconsin also lost to Maryland on the road. If you squint hard enough to cramp your facial muscles, that means the Gophers are as good as Wisconsin this year. The Badgers are playing for a top seed in the NCAA Tournament, and Minnesota is attempting to play spoiler.
Opponent: Wisconsin Badgers
Where: Williams Arena
When: 6pm CST Thursday March 5th
Minnesota does not have Maryland's athleticism, and Wisconsin is unlikely to shoot poorly from the field again, but Minnesota can dictate the pace of play. Against Maryland, Wisconsin only had 55 possessions. Normally, that is a situation that the Badgers prefer, but as I mentioned in the last preview underdogs need to put variance on their side. Fewer possessions means fewer opportunities for talent to dominate. This year, Wisconsin is simply more talented than the Gophers. As odd as it sounds for a team built on transition offense, it may be advisable for the Gophers to slow the pace a bit at home.
2. Limit Frank Kaminsky
If Kaminsky wants to play his worst game of the year tomorrow, I will not mind. The Gophers do not have a player who can guard Kaminsky effectively one on one. Consequently, it is highly unlikely that Kaminsky will be shut down. What is possible is to limit the number of touches Kaminsky gets in his favored parts of the floor. The Swing offense is a deliberate continuity offense that frequently inverts guards and bigs. Minnesota may want to preference keeping Kaminsky on the perimeter even if it pulls Mo Walker, Elliott Eliason, Bakary Konate, or whomever else is guarding Kaminsky away from the basket.
3. Limit Mistakes
Wisconsin is usually going to play relatively mistake free basketball. It is highly unusual for the Badgers to get into a turnover fest or take several bad shots in a row. Minnesota will have to do the same at home. Empty possessions against Wisconsin is a recipe for failure. Minnesota's guards will have to regularly make smart decisions about where the ball should go and the team execution will have to be near perfect to get an upset. We have seen the Gophers play great basketball this year, but it has usually been in spurts instead of an extended effort.
- As per usual, I refuse to predict a game where I may rationally have to choose a Wisconsin victory. If you're a betting individual, KenPom has the Badgers by 6.
- Charles Buggs briefly forgets to be tentative and blows by a Wisconsin player for a highlight reel dunk.
- At some point, Richard Pitino will field a lineup that is entirely players expected to return next year.