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Minnesota Basketball-Previewing Penn State

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Minnesota travels to Happy Valley for its third conference game.

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

After a loss that almost moral victory close, Minnesota travels to Happy Valley to take on Penn State. The Gophers are 0-2 in conference play and 6-8 on the year. Penn State is 9-6 on the year and also 0-2 in conference play with losses to Maryland and Michigan.

Provide Me the Essentials to View this Game

Who are the Gophers Playing

Penn State Nittany Lions

What time are they playing

6pm CST

Where are they playing

Bryce Jordan Center

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

Penn State's first two conference games were tough match ups. The Nittany Lions played Maryland tough before being blown out by Michigan. Both of those games were on the road.

Offensively, the first key statistically is that the Nittany Lions play slowly. They are 310th in the nation in adjusted tempo. Expect tonight's game to be a bit of a slog if the Gophers elect to follow a similar strategy to the Michigan State game. Penn State scores a little over a point per possession. They are a bad shooting team generally and a horrible three point shooting team. I foresee the Gophers using a lot of 2-3 zone to clog driving lanes.

Defensively, the Nittany Lions are a stellar two-point defensive team, ranking 38th in the country. Opponents shoot a little over 42% inside. Given Minnesota's struggles shooting the three, this is a difficult matchup.

Brandon Taylor and Shep Garner lead Penn State's attach. Taylor is their leading scorer, and Garner is close to a 40% three point shooter. Minnesota will have to do a good job limiting their opportunities to pull out a road win.

Keys to the Game

  1. Maintain Defensive Intensity. Minnesota played much better defense against Michigan State than they had early in the year. Granted, the Spartans still averaged 1.11 points per possession, but for most of the game the Gophers did a good job of limiting opportunities. Minnesota will have to continue that intensity against a more favorable match up.
  2. Jordan Murphy has to stay on the court. What was true against Michigan State is true against Penn State. Currently, Jordan Murphy is the best player on the Gophers. When he is on the court, the team defends and scores better. He almost had another double double against Michigan State, and his true shooting percentage and offensive rating from that game are drastically different if a few bunnies drop. Expect him to make those shots against Penn State.
  3. Run the Offense. I continue, perhaps foolishly, to hold out hope that Pitino's offense is not a set of isolation plays for a guard or a forward. If it is, then in the off-season that should be corrected. Nonetheless, even isolation sets have better spacing than the Gophers typically show. Whatever offense is taught at practice needs to make it to the game because bailout threes by Nate Mason, while awesome, are unlikely to win games. 

Predictions

  • Minnesota loses by 4, 70-66.
  • Jordan Murphy has another double double
  • Charles Buggs is a healthy scratch