IU v Minnesota Gameday Preview

On Thursday evening at 8:00 ET, the #8 ranked Indiana Hoosiers (15-1, 3-1) host the Minnesota Golden Gophers (12-5, 0-4) on BTN.

As always, Jerod, Andy, and Ryan will be here with another episode of The Assembly Call as soon as the game ends with instant analysis and fan reaction.

IU-Minnesota Game Info

IU-Minnesota Preview by Andy Bottoms

Tonight the Hoosiers will look to move to 4-1 in the Big Ten and 16-1 overall when Minnesota comes to Bloomington. The Gophers are currently 0-4 in conference play, but two of those losses were by five points or less and another came in double overtime.

Minnesota’s season completely changed when forward Trevor Mbakwe suffered a season-ending knee injury in the final game of the Old Spice Classic. Mbakwe was one of the best rebounders in the nation and was able to draw fouls and get to the line at a high rate. Minnesota’s free throw rate in the seven games he suited up was a gaudy 51.6, but it’s been just 32.2 in the 10 games he’s missed.

Consequently, the team has been forced to rely upon an inexperienced set of guards more than expected. Juco transfer and former UC Davis guard Julian Welch has stepped up recently, scoring in double figures in 11 of the last 13 games. He’s coming off of a four-point effort against Purdue but remains the team’s top outside threat, hitting over 41 percent from beyond the arc. Tubby Smith uses four other perimeter players, all of whom have been relatively inconsistent this year.

Even with Mbakwe gone, the frontcourt isn’t entirely bare with Rodney Williams and Ralph Sampon III. Williams is as athletic as they come and has scored in double figures eight times since Mbakwe went down. He comes in with double-doubles in two straight games, and the matchup between Williams and Christian Watford is one to watch. It seems like Sampson has been there forever, and the only thing consistent about him has been his inconsistency. He scored 22 points against Illinois but has just 20 points in the three games since. Both Williams and Sampson are terrific shot-blockers on the defensive end.

jordan-hulls-indiana-minnesotaFor the Hoosiers, they are coming off of a lights-out shooting display and enter the game as the nation’s top three-point shooting team at 47.6 percent. The fact that Minnesota has had issues defending the three-point line bodes well for the likes of Jordan Hulls and Matt Roth, who combined for 12 triples against Penn State.

Minnesota’s biggest strength on defense is their ability to force turnovers, so Hulls and Verdell Jones will need to take care of the basketball when the Gophers press.

As always, it will be important for IU to go inside to Cody Zeller, because if he can get Sampson in foul trouble, there aren’t many other options up front for Minnesota. Zeller is coming off of yet another Big Ten Freshman of the Week award. With just 15 rebounds over the last four games, the Hoosiers will need him to keep Minnesota off the offensive glass, which is something they struggled with against Penn State.

Outside of the Watford-Williams matchup, the other one to watch is Victor Oladipo and Julian Welch. You have to assume IU’s defensive stopper will get the assignment to slow up Minnesota’s most potent guard, and it will be important for the Hoosiers to make other players beat them from the perimeter.

On the injury front, Will Sheehey (ankle) has been practicing with the team, but his status for the game is uncertain. I wouldn’t expect his regular complement of minutes if he plays, but if the goal is to have him ready for Ohio State this weekend, it might be a good idea to let him knock some of the rust off.

In the end, this is a game the Hoosiers should win to keep their undefeated record at Assembly Hall intact. The students will be back, which should make the environment that much more raucous. So long as they aren’t looking ahead to Sunday’s date with the Buckeyes, expect IU to move 16-1.

Listen to Andy tonight on The Assembly Call. Follow him on Twitter at @AndyBottoms.

IU-Minnesota Postgame Show

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