Minnesota returns to Williams Arena to take on Northwestern. After the loss to Penn State, MInnesota is 0-3 in conference play and 6-9 on the season. Northwestern is 1-2 in conference play and 13-3 overall after yet another soft non-conference season. To preempt objections yes Minnesota had a soft non-conference as well.
Provide Me the Essentials to View this Game
Who are the Gophers Playing
What time are they playing
Where are they playing
Can I watch the game on TV
Can I listen to the game on the radio
Tell me more about the Opponent
I'll get this out of the way early. Outside of the rivalry games, I want Minnesota to beat Northwestern every year. Partially, this is due to Medill grads in the media consistently playing up the Wildcats chances. The other half is that however unjustifiably, I like to think that Minnesota is a better program than the Wildcats. I'm right for a host of reasons, but this season is doing a lot to fight that perception.
Unfortunately, this year the Wildcats might be decent. They won't get into the tournament because their non-conference schedule is garbage and every team they've played that's been at all talented has beat them, but they might be decent. The Wildcats average almost 1.1 points per possession, and do so by being efficient. Over the last two games, that number has dropped to a hellacious .82 points per possession due to offensive struggles.
Northwestern has a plethora of shooters, and score well both inside and outside. These shots are mostly jump shots as evidenced by their horrific FTA/FGA ratio. Bryant McIntosh and Tre Demps lead the Wildcats attack. Both are good shooters, though Demps is approaching chucker status.
On defense, the Wildcats run a statistically conservative defense. They avoid fouling and rarely turn other teams over. I hesitate to draw too much from non-conference play because, again, their schedule was garbage. Still, expect the Wildcats to force Minnesota to use most of the shot clock on every possession. Northwestern is nowhere near as good as Michigan State's defense, but Minnesota is not particularly good.
Keys to the Game
- Defend the 3. Minnesota is one of the worst teams in the country at defending the three point shot. Over Pitino's career, it has become almost gospel that a struggling three point shooter will go off against the Gophers. Who will that be today? Who knows, maybe Alex Olah will start raining threes. He's out for the game with an injury? Irrelevant. Absent a defense that runs Northwestern off the line, the Gophers will struggle all game.
- Avoid Foul Trouble. Jordan Murphy and Bakary Konate must stay on the court as much as possible this game. Northwestern presents multiple potential match up problems for a depleted Minnesota front court. If the starters cannot remain on the court, Minnesota does not have the bodies to hang with the Wildcats. I just threw up in my mouth a bit writing that sentence.
- Attack the Basket. Northwestern is still Northwestern, and their bench is not deep. Minnesota needs to get the Wildcats in foul trouble to soften up the Wildcats defense. This does not mean drive aimlessly to the basket and throw up a contested runner.
- KenPom calls this 60% for Northwestern, but with the Wildcats injuries I think this is a pick'em. Minnesota by 2 70-68 as a homer pick.
- Bakary Konate does not pick up his third foul until the second half.
- Minnesota spends extended amount of time playing small ball.