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Minnesota Basketball: Previewing Ohio State

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Gophers come back home hoping to continue the magic.

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Ohio State
It’s been that kind of start to the conference season for the Buckeyes.
Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

If I’m being honest, my eyes are getting raw from rubbing them so much in disbelief. Here we have the Gophers, a team that went 8-23 last year, coming off back-to-back road wins and looking like they belong with the teams at the top of a variable Big Ten. The last time Minnesota won back-to-back conference road games? Well, that was Jan. 12 and 15 ... in 2012.

With these performances the Gophers have flied up the rankings, checking in at 34 in KenPom, 4th in RPI and as a 7-seed in Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology. Certainly there’s a long way to go in the season, but three games into the conference slate Minnesota has done a tremendous job.

Up next are the Ohio State Buckeyes, who have started off the conference season with losses to Illinois (road) and Purdue (home), and are now down one starter for the season. The Buckeyes played a so-so non-conference schedule and didn’t make much noise, and were even dealt a nasty loss by Florida Atlantic. And even though OSU returned all five starters from last year’s NIT team, they’re still jelling as evidenced by the up-and-down season so far.

The game represents a winnable home game for the Gophers, who can keep themselves near the top of the standings and simultaneously show that they can beat the teams they need to beat at home.

Essentials:

Who are the Gophers playing?

Ohio State Buckeyes (10-5, 0-2)

What time are they playing?

6:30 p.m. CT

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. ESPN 1500.

Tell me more about the opponent.

The Buckeyes returned all five of their starters from last year, but even with that continuity they’re still a young team. Like the Gophers, they only have a single senior in the regular rotation. Growing pains are still evident, as Ohio State has run into some inconsistency from some of its key contributors.

Trevor Thompson, for instance, a 7-0 center, has been great when on the court, but his kryptonite has been foul trouble. He’s fouled out in four games already this year and racked up four fouls in three other games. He played only 16 minutes in the Buckeyes’ loss to Illinois.

Sophomore PG JaQuan Lyle is another grab bag. Averaging 12 ppg and 6 apg, he’s just as likely to put up a 20-point effort as he is to score in single digits. He’s a great distributor, however, and is third in the conference (behind Nate Mason) in assists.

Junior F Jae’Sean Tate has emerged as the team’s most consistent scorer, pacing the Buckeyes with 14 ppg and pulling down more than 6 rpg.

The Buckeyes have hung their hat on defense this year, and have the second best FG% defense in the conference behind the Gophers. However, the team received news a couple days ago that starting forward Keita Bates-Diop would miss the rest of the season with a stress fracture, which significantly undercuts the Buckeye defense.

Their scoring offense leaves a little something to be desired and they don’t shoot the three pointer very well. They also don’t get to the line very often, and even when they do they’re worse than Minnesota at converting.

Keys to the Game

Once again, the Gophers match up well with their opponent. The Buckeyes tend to do most of their damage closer to the basket, where Minnesota has been effective. And with the Gophers’ ability to get to the line and draw fouls, they’re in position to get Thompson into trouble early and take away their one true big guy.

  1. Defend the rim — Ohio State won’t light it up from downtown, but they do have five guys averaging in double figures, so the entire team basically knows how to score. Reggie Lynch and Jordan Murphy will be imperative to getting the Buckeyes off their game close to the hoop, while Nate Mason will be charged with frustrating Lyle in the backcourt.
  2. Draw fouls — With Bates-Diop on the bench for the year, the Gophers are once again in position to use their ability to get to the line and draw fouls. Ohio State is not a terribly deep team, and ran into trouble against Purdue when their starters had to head to the bench.

Predictions

KenPom like the Gophers in this game and is giving it to them, 72-67. I like the Gophers in this one and am taking them by 6.