Weekend Watch: Minnesota-Indiana preview

January, 11, 2013
1/11/13
11:00
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Editor's note: Each Friday morning, Jay Bilas will break down the weekend's top game. This week, it’s the Big Ten matchup between No. 8 Minnesota and No. 5 Indiana at noon ET on Saturday.

Game overview: Minnesota is coming off a victory at Illinois in which the Golden Gophers shot 9-of-15 from 3-point range, scored in transition and took the ball inside against the Illini. Tubby Smith has a good defensive team that plays primarily half-court man-to-man (although Minnesota does press, mostly after free throws). The Gophers pressure the ball, contest passes on the perimeter and close out well on shooters while still taking away drives. This team loves to get out on the break, but does not force a lot of turnovers or rely upon steals, and loves to get the ball inside via post passes and drives. The Gophers have shot the ball well, but the primary deep threats are Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins, the only two players on the roster who have hit more than 10 3s on the season. But what Minnesota may do best is hit the offensive glass and get second shots. Trevor Mbakwe and the super-athletic Rodney Williams are both averaging around 3 offensive rebounds per game. Williams has been playing the power-forward slot and has been having his best season. Minnesota leads the nation in offensive rebound percentage at 48.5 percent. The Gophers are deep, play hard together, are finally healthy and at full strength, and expect to win.

The Hoosiers are an outstanding offensive team and an underappreciated defensive unit. Indiana gets up and down the floor better than Minnesota, especially Cody Zeller, who runs the floor better than any college big man. The Hoosiers are balanced, with five guys who average between 11.1 and 16.5 points per game, and shoot better than 51 percent from the floor as a team. Indiana does a great job using ball screens and finding opportunities to cut to the basket or the 3-point line. It all starts with Zeller, whose running game drags the defense toward the baseline and provides opportunities for others. Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey provide versatility and toughness and freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell has improved game by game. Indiana has several players who can hit a 3 -- but two whom you must find in transition and cannot leave, Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford.

[+] EnlargeAndre Hollins
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesShooting at a 43.3 percent clip, sophomore Andre Hollins is Minnesota's top 3-point threat.
Indiana’s best player: Cody Zeller. The third of the Zeller brothers is the most efficient big man in the country, and is the Hoosiers’ best scorer, defensive rebounder, offensive rebounder and most efficient player. Zeller averages 16.5 points and 7.9 rebounds on 62.7 percent shooting, and takes just over 8 shots per game. Zeller does not turn the ball over and gets to the free-throw line. While he could clearly be a better defensive rebounder and more assertive and look to take over on the offensive end, this team does not win without Zeller. Since his arrival in Bloomington, the Hoosiers are 41-10.

Minnesota’s best player: Andre Hollins. He is a scoring point guard who has only been playing the position for a few years. Hollins was a scoring guard in high school, playing in the same backcourt with Memphis guard Joe Jackson. He is Minnesota’s primary handler and top assist man, but he is also an attacking guard who loves to get past defenders to explode into a shot or get to the rim. Hollins has shot more free throws than any Gopher but Mbakwe, and is a streaky 3-point shooter who has hit 29 triples on the season. Hollins is also a terrific defender who is very good pressuring the ball.

Indiana X factor: Victor Oladipo. The dynamic wing is having an outstanding season, and he can be plugged into almost any role on the floor. Oladipo is nothing but energy and activity, and can guard anyone from a point guard to a four, and can keep primary offensive options from catching it where they want. He is relentless in going to the glass, going after loose balls and making momentum plays in transition. Oladipo is averaging 13.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.1 offensive rebounds and 2.2 steals, while shooting 67 percent from the field.

Minnesota X-factor: Trevor Mbakwe. Mbakwe is older and more mature, and is incredibly strong around the goal. He is hard to move off his spot, and is an outstanding rebounder at both ends. Mbakwe has huge hands and is among the best offensive rebounders in the country. Indiana cannot allow Mbakwe to get angles in the post and must make him run and guard ball screens at every opportunity.

Key stats: Turnovers and offensive rebounds. Both teams are good defensively, and an important factor will be second shots. Minnesota gets more of them than any team in America, but can also give them up. Indiana has two outstanding offensive rebounders in Zeller and Oladipo. In addition, Minnesota has to take care of the ball. The Gophers are rated 254th in the country in turnover percentage.

Who wins: This is a big-time game between two teams that can beat anybody. Indiana is at home, where it plays its best and has been difficult to beat. I favor Indiana to win, 76-72.

Jay Bilas

College Basketball analyst

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