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Minnesota Basketball-Previewing Michigan

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Will the Gophers win their first game tonight? Probably not.

Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

When Minnesota last played, they appeared on the edge of finally breaking through to get their first Big Ten win. On paper, the game against Northwestern was statistically pretty even. Unfortunately, the Gophers had to play the game. They lost by 24 points. Today, the Gophers play a far better opponent in the Michigan Wolverines. Michigan is 17-7 on the year and 7-4 in conference play.

Provide Me the Essentials to View this Game

Who are the Gophers Playing

Michigan Wolverines

What time are they playing

8pm 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

Since the Gophers last played Michigan, the Wolverines have flipped between solid and decidedly shake. Michigan was trounced by both Michigan State and Indiana in the last week. Of course, Minnesota is dramatically worse than both of those teams, and there is a good chance Michigan gets Caris LeVert back for this game.

On offense, the Wolverines average about 1.11 points per possession. This is a John Beilein team, so unsurprisingly they are good at hitting jump shots. Michigan is second in conference in effective field goal percentage, and fourth in three point percentage. The Wolverines do not get to the foul line often, ranking eighth in the conference. Now, in recent games Michigan's three point percentage has dipped substantially, but the Gophers are abysmal at defending the three. Duncan Robinson is the Wolverines best three point shooter for those curious who is going to have a career day against the Gophers.

On defense, Michigan gives up 1.09 points per possession, but that number includes two games where they were beat badly by good teams. Minnesota is not a good basketball team. About the only positive for the Gophers is that Michigan is terrible at protecting the paint, and the Gophers are at their best when they drive with abandon.

Keys to the Game

  1. Defend the 3. For reasons that cannot be explained, Minnesota elected to go under ball screens for much of the Northwestern game. The Wildcats promptly made three pointer after three pointer. A similar situation will occur tonight if the Gophers decide defending the three is optional. It is unclear who will see the most minutes tonight, but a priority must be given to players that actually defend out to twenty feet.  
  2. Avoid Foul Trouble. This really only applies to one player. When Jordan Murphy is on the court, Minnesota is a fairly bad basketball team. When Jordan Murphy is off the court, Minnesota is grateful that Rutgers is in the conference or they would be the worst basketball team in the history of the Big Ten. Murphy has to play smart and avoid early hand check fouls for Minnesota to make this a game.
  3. Attack the Basket. Remember how Michigan has problems protecting the rim. Minnesota needs to exploit that. The second half of the Indiana game provides a blueprint of how to attack the rim. Of course, John Beilein is not an idiot, so expect the Wolverines to sit in a zone for much of the game. Minnesota can still penetrate, but they will have to work hard to find gaps.

Predictions

  • Michigan by 15. KenPom sees this as 75-68 Wolverines, but that algorithm is putting too much weight on the Wolverines last two losses.
  • The Barn will be half full.
  • We have another conversation in a comment thread about whether to fire Pitino.