Minnesota and Indiana are both reeling and in need of a win if either want to guarantee a spot in the NCAA Tournament. The Gophers, once 12-2 overall and then 6-4 in the Big Ten, have lost their last Four and are coming off a late loss to a short-handed Nebraska team. It’s been even worse for Indiana having lost nine of its last 10 Games with its lone win being an odd overtime Game at Michigan State. Otherwise, the Hoosiers have been a mess and are coming off back-to-back home losses to mediocre Big Ten squads in Iowa and Ohio State. Neither one of these teams has an easy upcoming slate so the importance of winning this Game can only grow, especially being the only time they play each other.
Given how these teams have played, neither has an overwhelming edge anywhere on the cOurt. Minnesota’s offense may be the most efficient unit in this Game because it shoots well inside the arc and draws a lot of fouls, but otherwise, nothing stands out, both below average in most Conference stats. The most important matchup will likely be down low with Juwan Morgan, Justin Smith and De’Ron Davis against Jordan Murphy and Daniel Oturu. Minnesota’s bigs have been a bit more reliable since Murphy (14.7 ppg, 11.9 rpg) and Oturu (11.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg) are two of its top scorers. The Gophers will likely focus on getting those two the ball early and that doesn’t help Indiana, who will likely be forced to use a shorter Morgan on him. That could also hurt Morgan (15.4 ppg, 8.0 rpg) on the other end, who is coming off a brutal three-point performance against Ohio State. The best way for IU to combat Minnesota’s advantage down low is if De’Ron Davis can find a little more consistency and doesn’t get into foul trouble in his limited time. He’s the same size as Oturu, but hasn’t been a factor most of the season, partly due to injury.
To win this Game, Indiana needs Romeo LAngford (17.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg) to do a little more and while he’s been good, he hasn’t been overwhelming at any point this season. Even though he’s shooting better from deep the last couple weeks, his scoring is still in the same place and he didn’t even attempt a free throw against OSU. The other issue is that Amir Coffey is two inches taller and has the length (and experience) to give LAngford some trouble. Without a true matchup advantage, the Hoosiers will need something from the role players whether it’s the guards like Rob Phinisee, Aljami Durham and Devonte Green or Justin Smith down low. They rarely play well in the same Game and that’s why Indiana is losing so much.
Of course, it’s kind of the same for the Gophers, who may get even less production out of Dupree McBrayer and Gabe Kalscheur in the backcOurt. Both are averaging near 10 points per Game, but McBrayer hasn’t hit 10 since Jan. 12 and Kalscheur hasn’t surpassed eight in three of the last Four. At the least, the advantage of Oturu down low and Coffey’s size edge could be enough at home. since the Hoosiers have struggled more between these teams, it’ll be hard to back them on the road, even against a shaky Minnesota squad.
Our Pick- Minn -3