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Minnesota Basketball: Three keys to beating Ohio State Thursday Night

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Will the Gophers be at full strength and can they beat Ohio State?

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

The Barn

7:00 PM

ESPN

Ohio State

The question that matters most is...will the Gophers be at full strength? I suspect that Jamison Battle and EJ Stephens will be back, which will help. Hopefully Eric Curry is close to healthy from his sprained ankle. But will the next Covid wave take out Payton Willis or Luke Loewe?

Ohio State

Mascot: Buckeyes
Record: 12-4
KenPom Rank: 26

For this exercise, let’s assume that the Gophers primary 7 (now 8?) man rotation is all playing and healthy.

KEYS TO A GOPHER WIN

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Return to balanced scoring - The encouraging thing from the absence of Battle, Curry and Stephens is not just the Payton Willis explosion but also lets not forget that Loewe had 19 points and shot 60% from three. The more balance this offense can have, the harder they’ll be to defend.

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Penetration is key - Ohio State is both very good at getting into the lane (drawing fouls) as well as defensively they are very good at cutting off penetration angles. Slowing penetration without fouling and finding the right opportunities to get into the lane offensively

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EJ Liddell - A likely 1st Team All-Big Ten big man. Liddell poses a matchup problem for the Gophers. He is much quicker and more athletic than Curry or any of the guys we will trot out at center. He isn’t as much physically dominating as he is active, athletic and long. He is a concern.

PREDICTION

On paper, this is a loss for the Gophers. KenPom gives us a 41% chance of winning this one at home. The good news is that Ohio State, similar to Rutgers, has not been quite the same team on the road as they are at home. Their road losses are all to good teams, but also going to Double OT at Nebraska and scoring only 51 in a 16-point loss at Indiana.

If the Gophers are a full strength and continue to play with the confidence they’ve been playing with, this game is there for them. I’m feeling optimistic and will go with a Gopher win at home.

Minnesota - 68
Ohio State - 66