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Men’s basketball preview: Gophers vs. #25 Ohio State

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Gophers have yet another opportunity to beat a Top 25 team

NCAA Basketball: Minnesota at Ohio State Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The Gophers came crashing back to earth on Thursday on the road against Wisconsin, resorting back to the same bad actions that doomed them in their other blowout loss to Illinois. Was it because they were on the road? Unclear, though in two road games this year Minnesota has been absolutely obliterated. They scored a season-low 22 points against the Wisconsin defense in the first half, started the game 3-20 from the field and Marcus Carr was held in check. Three-point shooting was putrid again and the Gophers were far from the ball-moving team we saw against Iowa and Michigan State.

Credit to the Badger defense, which was as good as advertised. The Gophers were clearly never comfortable in the half-court set, often settling for three-pointers or long-range jumpers when they couldn’t get the looks the wanted from Liam Robbins. Of note, Both Gach was a non-factor again, marking the fourth time in five games that he scored seven points or fewer.

Minnesota heads back home for a Sunday tilt against a beatable Ohio State Buckeyes team. Consequently, OSU is 0-2 on the road in the Big Ten, having dropped games to Northwestern and Purdue. It’s a prime opportunity for the #21 Gophers to get back on track in the winning column and salvage the week, while continuing their rare current two-game winning streak over the Buckeyes.

Essentials:

Opponent:

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

Date and Time:

Sunday, Jan. 3 @ 4:30 p.m. CT

Location:

Williams Arena

TV:

BTN

Radio:

KFAN 100.3-FM

Tell me more about the opponent.

Ohio State has a sneaky effective offense, ranking 7th in the nation in KenPom for efficiency despite having one of the slower tempos in the country. They don’t turn the ball over, have an excellent offensive rebounding percentage and do a great job at getting to the line where they are one of the best teams in the conference at shooting free throws. Sounds a lot like Wisconsin, eh?

Their one wart is that they allow opposing teams to connect on a ton of three pointers. Of course, if you’ve watched any Minnesota games this year you know that there’s probably nothing to be afraid of there. The Gophers are dead last in the conference in three-point percentage, but the opportunities should be there again.

The Buckeyes aren’t terribly deep and their starters do most of the scoring. EJ Liddell has made a tremendous leap in his sophomore season and leads the way with 14.4 ppg while collecting 6.4 rpg. Duane Washington Jr. is right behind him with 14.3 ppg.

Ohio State has nice wins over UCLA and Rutgers this year and are coming off a blowout of Nebraska in their most recent game.

Predictions

The Gophers are quickly defining the narrative that they are good at home and poor on the road, which is a reversal of their usual fortunes. Ohio State is fundamentally sound, but if Minnesota can hit at least a respectable amount of three-pointers and get Marcus Carr back on track they should be in position to win this one. Wisconsin forced them off their game on Thursday, but crisp rotations, getting Liam Robbins touches and getting more guys involved in the offense is their ticket to a victory.

KenPom has Ohio State by 1 in this one, as does Vegas. Unfortunately, I feel like the Badger loss was more indicative of who the Gophers are and have the Buckeyes by four in this one.