The Indiana Men’s Basketball team will play their fourth Big Ten opponent this season on Saturday when they travel to Minnesota taking on the Golden Gophers at 5:15 PM Eastern on ESPN2. After several non-conference games, the Hoosiers started Big Ten play for the rest of the season on Tuesday night with a 71-61 loss at Wisconsin. Indiana will likely look to avenge their loss with the contest against Minnesota on Saturday. That is already not favorable for the Hoosiers who are 7-point underdogs the night before.
IU was handed their seventh loss on the season after a two-game winning streak their last time out when they faced Wisconsin. The Hoosiers and especially Collin Hartman started out hot in the first half leading 33-30 but crumbled in the second half by a score of 41-28. Hartman finished with a team-leading 18 points for what was not a bad shooting night from the offense. Indiana simply could not contain Ethan Happ who has always stirred up trouble. Happ had 28 and feasted off the Hoosiers.
The last five games for Minnesota have been kind to them, winning all five including a 77-67 win on Wednesday against Illinois. The Golden Gophers have gone 2-1 in Big Ten play with their lone loss coming early in the season on the road against Nebraska. Minnesota started out great in that win over the Fighting Illini but had a minor second half letup that made the game closer than they would’ve hoped. They still found a way to win for their fifth straight.
Luckily for the Hoosiers facing a 13-3 team, the team numbers do not hold a big differential and there is a decent shot at winning. IU averages 74.7 points per game while allowing opponents to 72.4 points per game. Minnesota is the slightly better side in those areas, averaging 83.4 points per game and only yielding 70.4 points to opponents. Indiana shoots 46.9% from the field, compared to Minnesota who is a slightly less 45.9% from the field. IU averages 37.1 rebounds, while the Golden Gophers grab nearly 44 per game. Indiana’s ball movement and defensive playmaking are slightly worse than Minnesota’s. IU averages 13.9 assists, 5.1 blocks, and 6.2 steals per game. Minnesota has 17.3 assists, 7.5 blocks, and 5.6 steals per contest.
Minnesota doesn’t necessarily need the win for confidence since they are 13-3 on the season. A Big Ten win for Indiana against any opponent can go long ways, especially with a new coach this year. Indiana will need either their offense to be perfect or their defense to step up if they want to claim the victory Saturday evening. Minnesota can just ride it out for all forty minutes and still win by 7-10 points depending on the Hoosiers production. If Indiana can establish success early and all throughout on offense and defense, they have a fair shot at winning.