The Gophers kick off the Big Ten season with a trip to Illinois, where they face a team that is arguably the best team in the conference. Iowa may have some problems with that statement but Illinois features a 1-2 punch of Ayo Dosunmu at guard and Kofi Cockburn in the middle. These guys are incredibly dangerous and a matchup problem for the Gophers, here is what it will take to start the Big Ten season 1-0.
KEYS TO A GOPHER WIN
Hold your ground in the paint - Robbins against Cockburn is a matchup that frightens me. There are some things that Robbins does well, being physical without fouling is not one of them. He may be on the court for a total of 7 minutes if he’s not careful. So fouls is one thing, but collectively the Gopher interior needs to keep Cockburn from having a massive game.
No turnovers - Illinois doesn’t particularly force a ton of turnovers, even if that is sort of in the nature of head coach Brad Underwood. They aren’t really putting on the defensive pressure to force turnovers and we have been pretty good at getting shots on possessions, but don’t make this the night that is the exception to the rule.
Attack the rim - This leads to a lot of 2-point baskets from close range or it leads to a lot of free throws. Get to the rim and put the Illini on their heels.
There is a path to beating Illinois, they are not unbeatable. Unfortunately I haven’t seen much from this Gopher team to have optimism heading into this game. I think Cockburn owns the paint and it’ll really be interesting to see how we defend Dosunmu.
Unless something out of the ordinary happens (like we hit a ton of threes), I do not see us coming away with a win.
Minnesota - 67
Illinois - 81