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Minnesota Basketball: Previewing Ohio State

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The Gophers head back out on the road hoping to stop the bleeding

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Ohio State
Things haven’t been going as planned for OSU.
Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a tough three game stretch for the Gophers, who are just two possessions away from being 5-2 instead of 3-4. But, in the end it’s the final score that matters, and the reality is Minnesota heads into Columbus riding a three-game losing streak. It’s not ideal, but it’s not like the sky is falling.

In fact, compared to last year, it’s basically impossible for the sky to fall. Taking a step back, the Gophers have achieved enough this season for it to be considered a success. But now that we’ve seen what this team is capable of, anything less than an NCAA Tournament appearance will be considered a failure. Funny how quickly that turns.

Heading to Ohio State is not ideal for a quote/unquote “easy” win. In fact, any road game is fraught with peril in college basketball. And even though the Buckeyes are down this year, the Gophers have only won in Columbus ONCE in the past 17 tries, with their last win coming in 2005 (I know, I didn’t believe it at first either).

The Buckeyes have lost five of their last seven games, though they did pick up a road win at Nebraska and held serve against Michigan State at home.

Essentials:

Who are the Gophers playing?

Ohio State Buckeyes (12-8, 2-5)

What time are they playing?

6 p.m. CT

Where are they playing?

Value City Arena

Can I watch the game on TV?

Yes, BTN

Can I listen to the game on the radio?

Yes. ESPN 1500.

Tell me more about the opponent.

Since we last left Ohio State things have sort of evened out. While it’s still a down year for the Buckeyes, they recovered somewhat from an ugly 0-4 start in the conference to win two of their last three.

JaQuan Lyle and Jae’Sean Tate continue to lead OSU in the scoring column and are nightly double digit threats. Trevor Thompson, as well, is getting his points while nearly averaging a double-double each game. In fact, altogether the Buckeyes run out five guys who average in double figures, so there’s no shortage of scorers.

OSU, though, is missing former starter Keita Bates-Diop, a versatile forward who was perhaps the team’s best defender. He’s on the shelf for the remainder of the season after having surgery to repair a stress fracture in his foot. His absence has left a hole down low on both ends for Ohio State, and leaves them vulnerable to a bigger team like Minnesota.

Keys to the Game

1. Get Nate Mason back on track

Mason is clearly in a funk right now, and while he’s still delivering the ball effectively, he’s lost his ability to score. In fact, since his mammoth performance against Purdue, he’s shooting just 26% from the field. What’s worse is that it’s hindering his ability to get to the line, where he’s effective. In the first four games of the conference season he got to the line at least eight times every game. In the last three (all losses, of course) he’s only been to the line five times total. He’s great at drawing fouls, but he’s gone away from even attacking the basket.

Guys like Akeem Springs and Amir Coffey can shoulder a lot of the load, but the Gopher offense can’t weather too long of a storm without Mason contributing 10-12 points per night. He’s too integral to the offense.

2. Keep the size on the court

Is this a broken record yet? Minnesota needs Reggie Lynch on the court to be effective on defense. Jordan Murphy is MIA, which makes it even more imperative that Lynch avoids foul trouble. The Gophers were able to own the paint on both ends of the court last time around against OSU between Murphy and Lynch, but we haven’t seen a complete game from both of them in quite some time. The Buckeyes are awful at getting to the line, and Minnesota has the opportunity to seriously stifle their offense.

Predictions

KenPom has this as a narrow victory for the Buckeyes 70-69. I think the Gophers get back on track and escape Columbus with a 2-point win.