University Park, PA
|Pos.||Minnesota Golden Gophers||Pnt/Gm||Pnt/Gm||Team||Pos.|
|PG||Nate Mason||12.6||14.3||Shep Garner||PG|
|G||Carlos Morris||11.6||6.5||Josh Reaves||G|
|F||Jordan Murphy||11.0||10.9||Payton Banks||F|
|F||Joey King||12.8||16.2||Brandon Taylor||F|
|C||Bakary Konate||4.6||2.8||Jordan Dickerson||C|
|Bench||Kevin Dorsey||7.4||2.7||Devin Foster||Bench|
|Bench||Dupree McBrayer||3.6||4.7||Julian Moore||Bench|
|Bench||Charles Buggs||7.8||3.9||Donovon Jack||Bench|
Not actually sure what the starting lineup will look like tonight so I put the lineup in that Pitino used against the Spartans the last time out.
Keys to a Gopher Win
Defend Brandon Taylor - Man, it feels like this guy has been around since Monson was prowling the sidelines of the Barn. Good grief. Anyways, he's a quality player who does a little of everything. He can hurt you from deep (35% from 3-point land). He can get to the line as shown by averaging 5.3 free throw attempts per game so far this season. And he rebounds well out of the small forward position. If the Gophers can actively limit his effectiveness, they will be able to keep the game manageable.
Get Jordan Murphy Involved Early - The Gophers need to feed one of the few players on the roster putting the ball into the basket. Whether it be on the low post, the elbow, the mid-post, it would behoove Pitino's crew to get the ball to the fresman early and often. The more Murphy touches the ball early, the more active he becomes on the boards, both on offense and defense (or so it seems at this juncture in the season). Considering that everyone else on the team is struggling to tickle the twine, why not give it to the guy averaging 14.1 points per game in his last nine contests?
Create Turnovers - Penn State, believe it or not, has a more atrocious offense then the Gophers do, ranking 174th in offensive efficiency (Gophers are 126th). Their primary ball-handler, sophomore Shep Garner averages 1.6 turnovers a game. Not a huge number but something the Gophers will need to look to increase if they want to have a chance to steal a win on the road. If they can force Garner and freshman Josh Reaves into some mistakes on the dribble, they could get some "easy" points in transition and make things even more difficult on a inefficient Nittany Lion offense.
Penn State's saving grace when comparing them to the Gophers is their defense, which is, at this point in time, light years ahead of Minnesota's. Penn State ranks 91st in defensive efficiency, well ahead of the Gophers, who are an atrocious 217th. The Nittany Lions in their current iteration are not a quality team. Unfortunately for us donning the maroon and gold, neither are the Gophers. Since the Bryce Jordan Center is often times more like a morgue than a basketball arena, I don't foresee much of a "home court advantage," which may give Minnesota a chance to steal a road game even with winning on the road in the Big Ten being as hard as it is.
However, since the Gophers have struggled so much on the defensive end, it's hard to see them pulling out a road victory until they show me something more than losing to a top 5 team by eight points without their best player who makes the entire team go and could very well be the best player in the country this year in Denzel Valentine. Therefore it is with great regret that I predict a Nittany Lion victory in some sort of heart-breaking fashion that makes the 12 Gopher fans tuning in break their TVs.
Penn State wins 74-71.