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Hoops Preview: Minnesota

THE ESSENTIALS

WHAT #28 Michigan (17-9, 7-6 B1G) at
#39 Minnesota (19-7, 7-6)
WHERE Williams Arena
Minneapolis, Minnesota
WHEN 7 pm ET, Sunday
LINE Minnesota -2 (KenPom)
Minnesota -2 (Vegas)
TV BTN
PBP: Brian Anderson
Analyst: Shon Morris

Right: Richard Pitino, who definitely doesn't eat brains for dinner. [Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog]

THE US

The tournament outlook is looking good: Michigan is on all but two brackets in the matrix, and the pair that omitted the Wolverines haven't been updated to account for the Wisconsin win.

This game will impact both NCAA tournament positioning and Big Ten Tournament seeding. Minnesota is tied with Michigan for sixth in the conference at 7-6, one game behind Northwestern and Michigan State heading into the weekend. By KenPom's projections, this is the second-toughest of the five remaining games of the schedule, but Michigan has owned this series lately: they've won 13 of the last 14 against the Gophers, including six straight at The Barn.

With three teams at 10-3, Michigan isn't going to win the conference, but it's well within the realm of possibility for them to claw their way to a top-four seed and a double-bye in the BTT. They have a decent amount of control over their own destiny, too, between tomorrow's game and the March 1st matchup at Northwestern.

THE LINEUP CARD

Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.

Pos. # Name Yr. Ht./Wt. %Min %Poss ORtg SIBMIHHAT
G 2 Nate Mason Jr. 6'2, 190 83 24 110 Not At All
Good passer, volume scorer who shoots better on threes (39%) than twos (37%).
G 0 Akeem Springs Sr. 6'4, 220 60 19 108 Not At All
Just A Shooter™ makes 39% of threes, 38% of twos.
G 5 Amir Coffey Fr. 6'8, 195 77 19 108 No
After ugly start, shooting 43% on threes in B1G. Decent finisher w/ high FT rate.
F 3 Jordan Murphy So. 6'6, 240 67 22 96 Very
Good rebounder, shot-blocker, inside finisher. High FT rate, bad FT shooter.
C 22 Reggie Lynch Jr. 6'10, 260 53 20 99 Very
Excellent rebounder and shot-blocker. Struggling with shot and turnovers.
G 1 Dupree McBrayer So. 6'5, 190 67 20 104 No
Can handle point, but not scoring efficiently and turning it over too much.
F 24 Eric Curry Fr. 6'9, 235 49 18 101 Very
Good rebounder, decent inside scorer, takes bad-idea jumpers.
C 21 Bakary Konate Jr. 6'11, 235 25 12 98 Very
Good shot-blocker, foul-prone, only offense is putbacks.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]

THE THEM

Minnesota capitalized on a weak nonconference schedule to go 12-1 heading into Big Ten play, then got off to a 3-1 start in the conference highlighted by wins at Purdue and Northwestern before falling back to earth in January. The Gophers lost five straight, including two at home, before recovering to win their last four when the schedule eased up. They're coming off an ugly one-point home win over Indiana that the Hoosiers did everything in their power to cough up. Minnesota's defense has been stout throughout; their offense has been mired in a funk.

Point guard Nate Mason is a high-usage player who ranks fourth in the B1G in both assist and turnover rate. He creates a lot of looks off the bounce, both for himself and others, but his shooting numbers reflect his penchant for taking tough shots: he's making 37% of his twos and 33% of his threes in Big Ten games. Only 34% of his makes this year have been assisted, per hoop-math. Mason salvages decent efficiency by taking care of the ball and capitalizing on frequent trips to the line, where he's shooting 82% on the season.

Two-guard Akeem Springs fits the Just A Shooter™ profile; he's making 39% of his threes, which comprise the majority of his field goal attempts. Lanky freshman wing Amir Coffey is also a good outside shooter, and he's effective at using his length to score in the paint.

Power forward Jordan Murphy does the big man stuff quite well; he rebounds, blocks shots, and makes 57% of his twos. His high free throw rate is both a blessing and a curse; while he draws a healthy number of fouls, he shoots only 57% at the line. Both he and backup Eric Curry, who fits a very similar profile, have a penchant for taking the occasional three-pointer that they only make 20% of the time.

Center Reggie Lynch excels as a rebounder and shot-blocker—he's eighth in the conference in OR% and first in block rate—but he's really struggling to finish (45% on twos in B1G play) and stay out of foul trouble. Backup Bakary Konate fits a similar mold but with much less involvement in the offense; he averages one shot attempt per conference game.

The sixth man is sophomore guard Dupree McBrayer, who's had a rough go in the Big Ten: his turnover rate outstrips his assist rate and he's shooting 40% inside the arc and 28% outside of it. Minnesota's normal rotation only goes eight deep; if you see someone enter who's not listed above, it'll be for a very short stint.

THE TEMPO-FREE

Conference-only stats.


Four Factors explanation

Minnesota is not a good shooting team, ranking 13th in the conference in eFG%. They make up for some of that with frequent trips to the line and a low turnover rate, but they still only rank 11th in the conference in offensive efficiency. The Gophers rely heavily on free throws; Michigan, as usual, is one of the more foul-averse teams in the country.

The Gophers boast the fourth-best defense in the Big Ten in large part because they restrict outside shot opportinities; they have the best three-point defense. They also block more shots than any other Big Ten team. Their defense has generally held strong even in losses; other than Maryland's 1.25 points per possession, Ohio State's 1.13 PPP is the best mark against them in Big Ten games.

THE KEYS

Contain Mason. Minnesota's offense goes as Mason goes, for the most part. He's going to put up shots no matter what; the key is making those shots tough, as Mason is more than willing to pull up for tough midrange attempts if the lane is closed off. Michigan has some options here; they can go with Derrick Walton, whose strength will be an asset in keeping Mason out of the paint, or save Walton's energy and go with MAAR, who's been excellent on defense lately.

Walton-Wagner high screens. Minnesota's defense is tough to crack. Michigan's best bet will be to get Minnesota's shot-blocking bigs away from the basket. Reggie Lynch might have trouble trying to keep with Moe Wagner and all he can do out of the high screen, whether it's slipping to the hoop or popping out for a three, and Walton's ability to pull up from anywhere makes Lynch's job that much more difficult. That should open up some kickout oppotunities, which will be of great importance against a team that doesn't give up many open looks on the perimeter.

Keep the foul battle close. If Michigan and Minnesota end up taking a similar number of free throws, the Wolverines are a very good bet to win this game. The Gophers need an edge here to make up for Michigan's decided shooting advantage.

THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES

Minnesota by 2.

Something's gotta give: a Minnesota offense that relies heavily on free throws against a foul-averse Michigan defense; a perimeter-oriented Michigan offense against a strong Minnesota perimeter defense.

ELSEWHERE

UMHoops preview.



This post first appeared on Mgoblog, please read the originial post: here

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