And now, the end is near, and so we face the final curtain of regular season play. Minnesota will play Penn State at the Barn on Sunday in a matchup between two teams with bad records. Minnesota is 6-11 in Big Ten play, and with a win on Sunday will lock up the 10 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. Penn State is 3-14 and playing for absolutely nothing. Sunday is the last regular season game for Minnesota's seniors: Mo Walker, Elliott Eliason, Kendal Shell, DeAndre Mathieu and Andre Hollins.
Opponent: Penn State
Where: Williams Arena
When: Noon, Sunday March 8
1. Generate Transition Opportunities
Penn State is not particularly efficient at taking care of the ball. The Nittany Lions turn the ball over on 18.4% of their possessions, nearly 1 in 5. The Gophers remain a top team in steal percentage and defensive turnover percentage. If Minnesota generates effective pressure and the Nittany Lions will likely fold quickly on the road. This starts from the guards. Andre Hollins, Nate Mason, and DeAndre Mathieu have to have good games on defense, not only to contain D.J. Newbill, but to create turnover opportunities that lead to transition baskets. Carlos Morris and Charles Buggs can also contribute with their length.
2. Make Threes
Minnesota needs to make Penn State extend their defense early to open up opportunities inside. The Gophers can do this by making three pointers early and often. It would be great to see a barrage of long range baskets early and then a steady diet of post entries for the rest of the game. As it is likely his last home game, here is hoping that Andre Hollins catches fire early on. If the Gophers are moving in transition, Joey King can also be a weapon. King is very good at catching and shooting in the trail position of the secondary break.
3. Contain D.J. Newbill
As I wrote in the last preview of Penn State, Newbill is Penn State's first and second option. The senior All Big Ten candidate has a usage rate of 30%, which means he is responsible for finishing almost a third of the Nittany Lions possessions. Newbill averages over 20 points per game, while attempting most of his shots from inside the three point line. If Minnesota can effectively contain Newbill, this should be an easy stroll to victory. More than likely, the Gophers will play a 2-3 matchup zone to take advantage of Penn State's paucity of outside threats. In the event that Minnesota plays man, the Gophers' guards will have to be aggressive on defense without fouling. Newbill is a solid free throw shooter, and gets to the line four times per every 10 shot attempts.
- Minnesota closes out the season with a win 74-64.
- Andre Hollins has an excellent performance and finishes with more than 20 points.
- We will see another lineup of all returning players for next season.