When: 2:00 PM EST, Saturday, February 16, 2019
Where: Williams Arena, Minneapolis, Minnesota
How to watch: ESPN2 (Jason Benetti/Dan Dakich)
Now, losers of nine of their last ten games, the Indiana Hoosiers will look to get back on track on Saturday when they travel to Minneapolis to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
The Gophers have encountered a rough patch of their own recently, dropping each of their last four contests. Minnesota and Indiana will both be playing to sustain their tournament aspirations on Saturday afternoon, and while Indiana’s hopes look like a long shot at best, the Gophers find themselves inside most NCAA tournament projections.
When looking at Minnesota, one of the first things that jumps off the page to you is the dynamic duo of Amir Coffey and Jordan Murphy.
Murphy continues to be one of the most effective rebounders in the Big Ten, leading the conference at 11.9 per game, along with adding 14.7 points per game. Indiana has struggled to keep teams off the offensive glass at times this season, and Murphy, who leads the conference in offensive rebounding, could make them pay.
Coffey is the leading scorer for the Gophers this season at 15.2 points per game and he can score from every part of the court. He possesses great size at 6’8 and is one of the best players in the Big Ten at drawing fouls and getting to the free-throw line.
Joining Murphy in the frontcourt will be freshmen center Daniel Oturu, who has had a solid opening campaign for the Gophers. At 6’10, Oturu is adding 11 points along with 7.3 rebounds per game for Minnesota and sits at seventh in the conference in block percentage.
In the backcourt, fellow freshmen Gabe Kalscheur will get the nod for the Gophers, and he’s shown flashes of his potential. Kalscheur is a very effective three-point shooter, knocking down 38% of his attempts so far this season. Kalscheur excels in spot-up situations behind the arc, where he is recording 1.22 points per possession on the season.
Rounding out the starting five for Minnesota will be Senior point guard Dupree McBrayer, who is a steadying presence for the Gophers. McBrayer currently possesses the ninth-best assist rate in the conference, and at 6’5, he possesses great size for a point guard. However, McBrayer has struggled so far this season with his efficiency, shooting just 37.9% from the field and only 28.8% from behind the arc.
As a team, Indiana’s focus on defense will need to be on protecting the paint and not fouling. The Gophers lead the Big Ten in both shots generated on two-point attempts and free-throw rate, scoring 22.1% of their points from the free-throw line.
Defensively, the Gophers have struggled to find an identity so far this season, and that has reflected on the stat sheet. Minnesota sits at just 10th in the Big Ten in effective field goal percentage defense, showing a possible area Indiana can take advantage of. However, if Indiana continues to prove unable to knock down perimeter shots, allowing opponents to clog the paint, it could prove to be another long afternoon for the Hoosiers offense.
With Indiana’s season hanging by a thread, Saturday could be a make-or-break contest for the Hoosiers. Both teams are in the midst their own skids, and Saturday should tell us a lot about the future trajectory of each of these two teams.