We haven’t had many shots at quality wins in BWA the last few years. Because we will have many chances in a strong SEC this season, I wouldn’t call this game critical, but it would be nice to take advantage of this opportunity. The nonconference scalps of Bucknell, OU, UConn, and Minny would look nice in March when the seeds are being set.
It won’t be easy. Minnesota isn’t an ideal matchup for us. In personnel they may have the best frontline that we have seen. Lynch is one the better pure post players that we will compete against. He outweighs Gafford by 40 pounds according to roster info. Lynch, on the other hand, may have trouble with Gafford’s athleticism. Trey needs to step up on D in this game. His mass should come in handy.
Lynch’s partner in crime Jordan Murphy is the type of mobile, combo forward that has moidered us in a couple of games. He uses his quickness to get to the rim where he takes half his FGAs (similar to Gafford) and finishes with efficiency. He gets to the line a lot where he converts at a 75% clip. Our best matchups for him are probably Bailey, Cook, and Hall. Somebody needs to know what flavor he is after the game.
Those two are surrounded by three 40%+ arc shooters. PG Mason dishes at a high rate without TOs. They shoot FTs well up and down the lineup. In short, they don’t possess any glaring weaknesses on O. However, other than frosh Isaiah Washington the Golfers don’t have a lot of scoring off the bench. Any foul trouble in theory makes life easier on the D.
Their D is nearly as impressive. Their interior defense is stingy, they don’t give much back on the boards, and they don’t foul much. The Gophers don’t force many TOs, though. Aggressive defense has been our Achilles heel. Their most glaring weakness is surrendering 8 treys a game on 38%. Our bevy of shooters need to show up, though Pitino will probably adjust the defense accordingly. If Gafford et al. can do some damage inside, we might be able to break them down. Here’s hoping.
Looking at the season stats of our opponents, we have three tells in terms of our losses. I’d take this with a grain of salt after only 8 games with two losses away from BWA, but we have yet to defeat teams that
Hold opponents to less than 0.95 points per possession (Minn. - 0.96 ppp). Right on the border.
Allow 2-pt FGs less often than once every 4.74 possessions (Minn. - 4.3 possessions per 2-pt FGs). So, Minnesota is good at shutting down the inside, but not as good as UNC and Houston.
- Get an assist on O more often than once every 4.3 possessions (Minn. - 4.2 possessions per assist). Solidly inside the danger zone.
That adds up to us having had trouble against teams that excel at shutting down the lane on D and sharing the ball on O. Minnesota has been strong in those categories. Throw in the dicey personnel matchups, and Minnesota presents us with some tests that we have flunked earlier in the season. We’ll see how much progress has been made.