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Minnesota Basketball-Previewing Illinois

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Minnesota seeks its first conference win.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota basketball plays Illinois this evening at Williams Arena. The Gophers are 6-13 on the season and still winless in conference. Illinois is 9-10 on the season and 1-5 in conference play.

Provide Me the Essentials to View this Game

Who are the Gophers playing?

Illinois Fighting Illini

What time are they playing?

7:30pm CST

Where are they playing?

Williams Arena

Can I watch the game on TV?

Yes. BTN.

Can I listen to the game on the radio?

Yes. 1500ESPN.

Tell me more about the opponent

Illinois is 1-5 in conference play with every loss to a top 100 team by KenPom rankings. There lone win was against Purdue. The Illini have experience multiple injuries. They lost Tracy Abrams for the year and are without forward Leron Black.

Those injuries do not seem to excuse the Illini's poor play in the eyes of fans.The Champaign Room has little room for these excuses.

Stop. talking. about. the injuries. This team's flaws are much deeper than that. It becomes even more abundantly obvious when the team is actually healthy, and they still play poorly.

That's fun.

Illinois is averaging .99 points per possession in conference. The Illini play fast, with the quickest possession length in the conference and the fourth fastest tempo. They do not shoot the ball well, contest the offensive glass, and rather frequently get their shots blocked. The Illini are a great free throw shooting team, but do not seem to get the line often. Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill lead the Illini in scoring. Nunn and Michael Finke are their primary three point threats.

Lest you think the offense is the worst part of the team, the defense gives up almost 1.16 points per possession. During the Indiana game the Illini played a zone defense that resembled the Gophers against Northwestern. They have the worst defensive field goal percentage in the conference and are not good rebounds. Illinois gives up a lot of open threes. A positive, the Illini do force a fair amount of turnovers, good for fourth in the conference.

Keys to the Game

  1. Make 3's. Illinois gives up the second most three point shots in conference. Minnesota will get plenty of looks, but open shots have rarely fallen for the Gophers this year. Joey King in particular will need to have a good shooting game. King should be able to get open shots in the secondary break, something that has been lacking the last three games.
  2. Control the Pace. Illinois will try to play fast. As much as I would like to see a street ball contest between the two teams tomorrow, Minnesota is better served slowing the pace down. First, Illinois is inefficient on offense. Fewer possession exacerbates that inefficiency. Second, Minnesota will be able to find good shots in the half court against a porous Illinois defense.
  3. Play with Confidence. Consistent losing is psychologically damaging to a team. Minnesota has appeared to be getting better over the last two games against much better opponents. They need to carry that confidence into this game. This is not a statistic that can be measured so much as a state of mind.

Predictions

  • KenPom and Vegas have this as a pick 'em. Homer pick says Minnesota picks up its first win 72-70. 
  • The Gophers have an effective FG% under 50%.
  • Nate Mason has another 20 point game.