January 16, 2008

Indiana @ Minnesota - Preview

Remember the Gopher Nation mantra for the next 10 days..."STEAL JUST ONE." In my opinion this is the one to get because it is a decent match up for us and it would clearly have the biggest impact. Beating Michigan State at home would be big and beating OSU on the road would serve notice that we are the 4th place team to beat, but this is the one we want. (plus if we win this we have a chance to steal one more, but now I'm getting greedy)

OK, I believe this game is winable and a decent match up for us. Am I crazy? Maybe, but let me take you through why I think we can win this game.

We have two strengths on offense.

1. Power Forward - Dan Coleman is our best offensive player and Mike White appears to be a match up he can win. At home and against a shorter defender, if DC can get by with his quick first step this can be something we can exploit.

2. We shoot three's kinda good - #1 in the conference in 3 pnt FG% and 2nd in three made per game. Indiana also shoots fairly well behind the arc (2nd in 3%) but they don't have as many attempts. Statistically Indiana is average at defending the 3 (7th in B10) so this may be another area that we can excel.

Our Defensive Strengths

1. We turn teams over (and over and over) - This has been the key to several wins. Our defense creates turnovers (thank you Coach Smith) and we turn them into points. Al Nolen is one of the best on the ball defenders in the conference and he does great in passing lanes as well. Gordon and Jarmacus Ellis have had their fair share of turnovers this year. Hopefully we can turn up the heat on them a little bit and get some easy baskets.

2. Shot Blocking - DJ White is arguably the best post scorer in the B10, I'm not sure that we will get to many of his shots, but the hope here is that when their perimeter players get into the lane we can alter shots and get the rebound.

Of course IU has their strengths as well. The rebound well and we do not, but we'll let their fans blog about that.

Match Ups

PG - McKenzie vs. Air Gordon - Gordon has exploded into the Big Ten and surpassed his already high expectations. He leads the conference in scoring by a lot and ranks 5th nationally in Ken Pomeroy's Offensive Rating. McKenzie hasn't been the scorer he was a year ago but he is much more mature and leads the team in many ways. The real match up will be Nolen guarding Gordon. Nolen is 6th in the country in steal% and Gordon turns the ball over on nearly 21% of his possessions.

SG - Westbrook vs. Jordan Crawford - Jordan is IU's 3rd leading scorer. He doesn't shoot particularly well from behind the arc (2/9 in Big Ten play), but the freshman has been a regular contributor averaging almost 13 pts, 4 reb and 3.5 asts per game. Westbrook has been a non-factor for what seems like the entire season. He starts games but never finishes them, I look forward to the day when Nolen takes his place in the starting lineup.

SF - Johnson vs. Jamarcus Ellis - the junior doesn't score much but what Johnson will need to do is keep Ellis off his rebounding average. And this is the guy we really want to be in pressure situations cause he will turn the ball over. This is a match up Johnson can win but he'll need to box out and use his long arms to affect Ellis. Although I want Damian to do well, my head tells me last year's JUCO Player of the Year will win this.

PF - Coleman vs. Mike White - I said it above and I'll say it again this is one we not only can win, but we HAVE to win. If we are going to pull off this upset Coleman needs to have a big game. He needs to score, he needs to rebound and he needs to draw some fouls. He has a couple inches on White and DC's best move is his one big, quick step into the lane and elevating above his defender. He should be able to do this and hopefully DJ White will come over to help foul. Lance Stemler will also give a lot of minutes guarding Coleman, but he should be able to score on the blue collar Stemler as well.

C - Tollackson vs. DJ White - DJ is the best post in the league. Fortunately for Spencer, DJ isn't all that tall and he isn't incredibly athletic (he moves well for his size, but he isn't that 6'10" skinny athlete that kills Tollackson). White is an NBA prospect and he will likely approach his season averages, but Tollackson should be able to play solid D on White. He needs to keep White from offensive rebounds and do his best to get him in foul trouble.

BENCH - The Hoosiers will bring 4 quality players off the bench. Deondre Thomas is a massive power forward, Bassett is a very good PG, Stemler is a hard working rebounder/defender and AJ Ratliff is a senior guard who can shoot. While this is a nice, versatile bench I'm giving this to Minnesota. Nolen off the bench has been phenominal, Williams should have an opportunity to play well vs. the Hoosiers and oh ya this white kid from Hopkins can kinda shoot (take over a game). Hoffarber alone makes this one in favor of the gophers. There are not many freshmen bench players that now require the opponent to game plan for. While I don't expect a shooting clinic every time he plays he has gotten better and better as the season has gone along.


1. Rebound the basketball - we don't do this well, but we will have to limit their opportunities. These are the two highest scoring teams in the Big Ten so giving them more chances to score will kill us.

2. Help from the Barn - this is when we need the unique raised floor and the small confines to play a role for the Gophers. We need the fans to get loud and affect the Hoosiers. We need the raised floor (along with our pressure D) to knock them off their shooting rhythm.

3. Turnovers - since we have been so good at this, it will always be a key. If IU hangs onto the ball I don't know how we can win.

4. Dan Coleman - If DC has a great game (30 points, 12 reb) that will greatly open up outside shots for the Hoff, McKenzie, Nolen and Abu-Shamala. And if he is getting that many shots there is a good chance he'll have drawn plenty of fouls. If DC has a great game we can really win this game.


There are reasons that I am hopeful for this game. Defensively we have turned teams over and we do a nice job of rushing their jump shots (see NW and NDSU, both good outside shooting teams). But what makes IU so dangerous is that when they aren't shooting well they can pound the ball into DJ White.

If we shoot well, fluster the Hoosiers into turnovers and get their posts into foul trouble we could win this game. IU is not unbeatable and we don't have to play perfect to win, but we don't have a lot of margin for error. I think the crowd and the team will be juice for this game. But we haven't shown that we can go 40 min without a lull. That lull might kill us tomorrow night.

I think we play well and make a game of it. But in the end IU pulls out this road win.


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