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Minnesota Basketball-Previewing Northwestern

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Minnesota heads to Evanston in search of its first conference win

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Now that NSD has passed, the real marquee day of the week has arrived. Minnesota takes on Northwestern in Men's Basketball!

...crickets...

Alright, fine. Minnesota and Northwestern are both garbage this year, and the last time the teams played Northwestern won by 25.

Provide Me the Essentials to View this Game

Who are the Gophers Playing

Northwestern Wildcats

What time are they playing

8pm CST

Where are they playing

Welsh-Ryan 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

This is what I wrote in the last preview.

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.

Since Minnesota played Northwestern, the Wildcats have gone 1-6. They have dropped their points per possession to .974. Every good team they have played (and Penn State!) has beat them. On offense, they are now 13th in the conference in eFG%, have gone cold from deep, and cannot shoot free throws. Absent an improbable run through February and the Big Ten Tournament, Northwestern will miss the NCAA tournament again.

None of this means that the Wildcats will not be able to roast the Gophers again from outside. Minnesota's defense has gotten much better over the last four games, but it's still porous. Aaron Falzon had the best game of his career against Minnesota last go round. Along with Bryant McIntosh and Tre Demps, he represents the most probable threat to the Gophers.

On defense, the Wildcats run a statistically conservative defense. They avoid fouling and rarely turn other teams over. The hybrid man/zone scheme that Northwestern played against Minnesota was torched by Iowa, Indiana, and Michigan State. All of those teams have realistic three point threats, but Minnesota can still do damage by copying their game plans and hitting some shots from the outside.

Keys to the Game

  1. Defend the 3. Last time, Northwestern made 11 threes. Most of those shots were open as a result of lazy defense. Minnesota must play with the same intensity it played against Indiana. The Gophers shut down a dominant team from behind the arc (with some help from Indiana's shooters), and must do so again to prevent Northwestern from seeing easy looks.
  2. Check the roll man on the high pick and roll. Northwestern scored 10 points off one of the most basic plays in basketball. Someone, anyone, needs to help and check the roll man to avoid easy dump offs.
  3. Attack the Basket. Minnesota had a lot of success attacking Indiana's man to man scheme. It's safe to assume that Northwestern will try to play a match-up zone of some type, but that should not prevent the Gophers from looking to get inside. Minnesota has the speed on the perimeter to get by Northwestern. It's an open question if they have the right scheme to take advantage.

Predictions

  • FULL HOMER ALERT. Minnesota picks up its first win of the conference on a buzzer beater from Nate Mason. 66-65
  • Jordan Murphy plays almost the entire first half without picking up his second foul.
  • Mason, Murphy, McBrayer, Dorsey, and Konate play extensive minutes together.