After five consecutive losses the Gophers have piled up three wins in a row against beatable conference foes, putting themselves squarely in the discussion for an NCAA Tournament berth. It hasn’t always been pretty, but at the end of the day the Gophers are 6-6 in the Big Ten with four of their final six games at home.
Do you feel that? That’s cautious optimism right there. Boy, do I miss that.
Up next are the Indiana Hoosiers, who come to town having lost five of their last six games, with the lone win coming over Penn State. The Hoosiers have been on and off the bubble all season but are currently on the outside looking in according to Joe Lunardi. That makes a game against the RPI-darling Gophers all the more important for Indiana, who have gotta be looking at Minnesota as a great resume builder, should they pull off a road win.
But which team will Minnesota face? The one that has beaten both Kansas AND North Carolina this year? Or the one that lost to IPFW and had to go to 3 OTs against Penn State? The Hoosiers are a real Jekyll and Hyde this season, but the Gophers get them at a time where it might not take much to destroy their confidence by coming out strong.
Who are the Gophers playing?
Indiana Hoosiers (15-11, 5-8)
What time are they playing?
8 p.m. CT
Where are they playing?
Can I watch the game on TV?
Can I listen to the game on the radio?
Yes. ESPN 1500.
Tell me more about the opponent.
The Hoosiers have one of the most explosive offenses in the country, and are second in the Big Ten in scoring at 80.6 points per game. The problem is they’ve been particularly porous on defense, and rank near the bottom of the conference in terms of giving up points.
The offense runs through James Blackmon Jr., Thomas Bryant and Robert Johnson, who are scoring a combined 44 ppg. Blackmon was hobbled by an injury recently for a few games and still appears to be getting his legs back under him, but he’s very dangerous.
Bryant has been Bryant. He’s a 6-10 sophomore C who will give Reggie Lynch all he can handle. He’s been scoring the ball very well in his past few games, with two 23-point efforts and a 31-point explosion mixed in over the past couple weeks.
The Hoosiers turn the ball over a ton, however, which provides an interesting wrinkle for a Gopher team that has capitalized on second chances recently. They’re a good three-point shooting team and are excellent near the hoop as well, thanks to Bryant’s efficiency. They’re also a great rebounding team on both sides.
Keys to the Game
1. We need Reggie, pure and simple
At this point it’s simply a matter of hoping Lynch doesn’t foul out. He’s been frustratingly inconsistent in his fouling and tendency to pick up dumb ones, but at the end of the day he’s the biggest difference maker on the team. Indiana relies heavily on Bryant for scoring, and he’s a game changer in his own right. But he’s going to go hard at Lynch, who has to be very careful about his fouling. If Lynch picks up two quick ones again and forces Eric Curry and Bakary Konate to the floor early, Bryant will have a field day. And he’s capable of doing major damage all over the court.
2. Get the backcourt going
Indiana scores and gives up a ton of points. Nate Mason and Akeem Springs need to come to play tonight and keep the pressure up. They’re both great in transition and have picked up the scoring recently, but they really need to come to play against a physical Hoosier team. Bryant is susceptible to foul trouble as well, and with Minnesota’s (and Mason’s in particular) ability to get to the line, they could get Bryant in trouble early.
KenPom likes the Gophers in this on, predicting a 74-70 win. I like Lynch to keep himself on the court tonight and am taking Minnesota by 3.