Tomorrow, the No. 1 ranked Indiana Hoosiers will return to action after a week of rest to face the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The last meeting between these two teams ended in a 88-81 victory for Indiana.
The Hoosiers are riding high after defeating Michigan State last week. They are alone atop the Big Ten standings, and a win will give them a two game lead. IU will need to win at least two of the last four games in order to take home the conference title. Minnesota (18-9, 6-8) is 6-2 at home, and Indiana (24-3, 12-2) is 6-1 on the road.
IU and Minnesota faced each other on January 12th in Bloomington. The Hoosiers appeared to have a rout on their hands with a 52-29 halftime lead. But a lack of effort by Indiana in the second led to a furious comeback by the Gophers that fell short.
Since that last meeting:
- Minnesota is 3-7, and the only impressive win was against (then-ranked) No. 20 Wisconsin in Williams Arena.
- Indiana is 9-2, including four wins over teams in the Top 25.
The Hoosiers were still trying to find their stride and place in the Big Ten and now appear to have it figured out. Minnesota has severely fallen off, and the incredibly tough Big Ten season has taken its tole on the Gophers. The recent run of poor play has a lot of people calling for the firing of head coach Tubby Smith.
It's fairly clear that Smith isn't getting through to his players anymore. Following at overtime win at home over Wisconsin, the Gophers suffered two blow out losses on the road to Iowa (by 21) and No. 18 Ohio State (by 26).
Minnesota has had issues all over the court. IU has a tendency to turn the ball over, but nowhere near as badly as the Gophers do, who cough it up on over 20 percent of their offensive possessions; the Gophers had 21 turnover against Ohio State last week. Against IU's fast-break, opportunistic offense, turnovers will be trouble. Defensive expert Victor Oladipo might be able to set new career highs in deflections, steals, and dunks in a single game.
To compound the turnover problem is the fact that Minnesota has only shot over 38 percent twice in the last nine games. Production from players not named Andre Hollins has been embarrassingly low. He is still averaging nearly 14 points per game and the Ohio State led to Hollins leading team in rebounding with eight. A 6'1' player led his team in rebounding!Tthat should explain a lot about the Gophers' recent effort level on the glass.
Hollins should expect a healthy dose of Oladipo and Yogi Ferrell tomorrow. Hollins led all scorers with 25 points in the last meeting, but was turned into a volume shooter and hit just 8-of-20 shots.
This game is simply an example of two teams going in opposite directions. The Gophers are desperate for a win and that can translate into victory, but this team doesn't seem to have much life left. They are clawing for an NCAA berth, but it is looking more and more unlikely.
The desperation of Minnesota will make this a close game, but the Hoosiers should still edge them out and be able to close a tight game.
Don't forget to follow us on twitter, @hoosiers101, where we will be live tweeting during the game.
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