4:00 Sunday. Williams Arena. Big Ten Network.
I won’t do the traditional rundown here as we just played these guys two weeks ago. And I won’t talk about that game because I was lounging by the pool and didn’t see it. And, come to think of it, I won’t be watching this game due to (1) a social engagement and (2) the fact the game is on BTN.
So I thought instead I’d focus on a game I did watch–Thursday night’s IU-Minnesota game. I was going to do a tempo-free recap until I happened upon this recap from The Hoosier Report. I’ll cite the paragraph below which ends with a key question that will perhaps entice you to click through:
Here’s the box score, which ought to be rated NC-17. Obviously, IU’s turnovers were the big story. This was a 68 possession game, and IU turned the ball over 26 times, or 38.2 percent of the time. As I noted in my preview, the Gophers force turnovers better than nearly every team in the country, but IU’s output was significantly higher than the 27 percent usually forced by the Gophers. Of the 341 teams tracked by Pomeroy, only two teams, Savannah State and Prairie View A&M, turn the ball over on even 30 percent of their possessions. In other words, while it’s great that the Hoosiers won, this turnover problem simply has to get better if IU is going to beat any elite teams this season. Minnesota turned the ball over only 11 times, or 16 percent of the time. That means that Minnesota had 57 possessions on which it had the opportunity to score, and IU had 42. So how the hell did we win?
This was a very disappointing loss for the Gophers (although Paging Jim S finds the bright side of life for the Gophers–and there’s quite a bit to be bright about). They forced IU to play the game at the pace they wanted–a frenetic one. And it worked, as evidenced by the 26 turnovers they created. But credit Indiana for finding enough ways to overcome those turnovers and pull out the win. As Joe Rexrode asserts, IU looks like a better team than MSU right now. This win clearly gives them a leg up in the Big Ten race.
Thursday night’s result puts that much more pressure on the Spartans to beat the Gophers tomorrow. A loss puts us two back of Indiana (I prefer not to think about Badgers at this point; Kenpom has “W”s next to all 14 of their remaining conference games at the moment). So, despite my lack of past and future MSU-Minnesota viewing, I’ll go ahead and issue a Spartans Weblog Key to the Game:
ATTACK THE GOPHER PRESS TO CREATE EASY BASKETS
Their full court press is designed to create turnovers. The Gophers now rank #1 nationally in defensive TO%. And, much as I’d like to be an optimist, I’m pretty sure MSU will turn it over a bunch of times; they did so 19 times in the Breslin meeting. So they might as well be aggressive and get some easy baskets on the other end. This was one of the keys to IU’s win; they got the ball to D.J. White for some dunks against the press.
If you don’t attack the press–and just try to get the ball up court to set up your offense–you allow your opponent to reap all the benefits of pressing without incurring any of the costs. I’m fairly confident Izzo won’t allow this to happen. This is, after all, a man who won a national championship game by attacking a press for easy baskets. (Remember Mateen Cleaves streaking down court to catch passes at mid-court to beat the press, rather than taking the initial in-bound pass and trying to dribble though it?)
Kenpom predicts a 67-66 win for the Gophers. This is going to be a nerve-wracking experience for Spartan Nation. Perhaps it’s better for my blood pressure that I’ll only be able to catch bits of it on the radio . . .