First a few quick notes. Since the game, IU has jumped up in the AP rankings to No. 2. This follows losses by former No. 2 Michigan to Ohio State and former No. 1 Duke losing to NC State on Saturday. Earlier in the week, former No. 4 Arizona lost to Oregon.
IU is the big winner here and is very close to regaining a No. 1 ranking. However, the next three games won't do much to get IU back on top with a visit from Wisconsin, a trip to Northwestern, and facing Penn State once again.
But let's take a look at what IU was able to do against Minnesota. As we've said before, IU played two dratically different games. IU appeared to be well on its way to an easy victory when it took a 52-29 halftime lead. But all credit is due to the Golden Gophers who kept fighting and scrapping to get back into the game and come a possession away from a possible upset.
Let's take a look at some of the key factors in the game.
- IU was shooting the lights out of Assembly Hall. In the first half. The Hoosiers were connecting on 65 percent of their shots. Even from the three point line. Cody Zeller wasn't even leading the team in scoring and had just nine points at the break. IU was dominating with outside shooting. They showed just how good this team can be when it is hitting on all cylinders. This is a key point: how good the team can be as opposed to is.
- Victor Oladipo is becoming a monster. There are few players in the NCAA who play defense like Oladipo does. Most players don't like to put forth the effort. But we all knew how good a defender he is before the season started. What has been really impressive is how much better his offense has gotten. He was 6-for-6 at halftime and finished 8-for-10. In reality he needed to get more shot attempts in the second half. Sometimes IU fails to find the man with the hot hand, and he is certainly skilled enough to create his own shot or run off screens to get open. So far this season, he has been IU's MVP.
- IU out Minnesota'd Minnesota, at least in the first half. The thing that the Gophers do so well is rebound and get second chance points. IU beat them 10-5 in the first half in second chance points. Zeller was able to use his size and length to get position in the low post to get to the boards. IU did manage to out rebound Minnesota, but it wasn't by a dominating margin.
- IU's defense was stifling. The Hoosiers forced 12 turnovers and had seven steals in the first half alone. Basically IU was playing defense on an insanely high level that led to an even more insane offensive output. I would have never guessed there was a correlation between the two.
- The entire second half. No, that's far too easy. The first five minutes of play…for both teams. It was quite possibly the worst basketball of the season from two very talented teams. It was plagued by sloppy ball handling, turnovers, missed shots, and general weirdness. It also set the tone for how IU would play the rest of the half (read: poorly).
- IU's bench forgot when the game was. The bench accounted for all of three points. From three different players. It also accounted for three turnovers. Will Sheehey, who has been IU's sixth man all season, was ineffective on both sides of the ball. He usually gives IU something positive on defense but failed to do so. He also continued to take poor shots even when: A) he hadn't hit a single thing, and B) was too well defended to even consider a shot.
- IU really wanted Minnesota to have the ball. The Hoosiers turned the ball over 11 times in the second half alone. Minnesota had six steals and four blocks in the second half too. We knew that IU's numbers would come back to earth, but the defense Minnesota played coupled with IU's lack of focus led to a near complete breakdown.
- Zeller still isn't getting enough touches down low. Either IU is incapable of designing plays for the big man, or they don't believe it is necessary. IU should run a high low with him or a ton of pick and rolls, but don't. It's baffling how little he really seems to be utilized unless it is in the fast break.
- Oladipo's committed an unforgivable sin three times. Three times he fouled shooters behind the three point line while in the act of shooting, thus giving them three shots from the free throw line. He knows better, but to do it three times is bad. Twice were due to pump fakes that got him in the air and the shooter proceeded to jump into him (something that shouldn't be legal in my opinion).
- The referees were a mess. While it is nice to see the refs let the guys play, there is a limit. What the announcers confused for tough defense was actually dirty play from Minnesota. They constantly were holding players, shoving off to create space and using illegal screens (which I'm convinced are not illegal anymore). The biggest offender was Trevor Mbakwe. He performed a hack job against Zeller since he was physically outmatched, but should have fouled out early in the second half. It remains a mystery as to what a foul actually is in college basketball, I put it in the same category as to what pass interference is in the NFL.
A quick note on Mbakwe: why is he eligible with multiple arrests and being on probation for two years but two players who literally had nothing to do with a donation 20 years ago were suspended by the NCAA? Shouldn't an arrest record trump any kind of ineligible benefits situation?
Even despite the bad second half, IU still got a solid win against a very good Minnesota team. The Golden Gophers will definetely be in the mix towards the end of the Big Ten season. Thankfully, IU won't see them again until the end of February (unfortunately it comes after a road game against Michigan State).
Next, the Hoosiers will host Wisconsin tomorrow night. We'll have a preview up tomorrow.
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