With an upcoming Saturday slate of games that feature some marquee conference match-ups, it may be easy to look past this Friday in the Big Ten. However, this evening we will see a contest between two teams who have struggled mightily over the past few months. Indiana will look to score its second consecutive win as they host a deteriorating Minnesota team in Bloomington.
Their first meeting on January 6th saw the Hoosiers win at The Barn 75-71. Following that game, Indiana went on to win their next two games before losing to Michigan State. Since that loss they have lost four of their last six games, all of those losses coming consecutively. Now, a team that had hopes of obtaining a possible at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament is well out of the conversation.
As for Minnesota, they have dropped their last six straight games, and they have only won two games since January 4th. With a 3-10 Big Ten record the team is completely out of contention for postseason play. Thanks to a bevvy of injuries, Minnesota’s primary weakness, depth, has never been more glaringly evident.
Both teams have had a rocky last few weeks, but it seems that the Hoosiers have the advantage on paper. Let’s take a closer look.
Game of the Day
Time/TV: 7:30 PM ET - FS1
KenPom Spread: Indiana (-7)
In their current six game skid, Minnesota has lost four of those by double digits. Their only single digit loss to Michigan showed that the team still has some vital signs left. However, they followed up that serviceable performance by giving up 91 points to Nebraska earlier this week. Amir Coffey has missed the last three games due to that shoulder injury that held him out in January. His status is uncertain for this game, but with the season seemingly lost, it may be smart to just shut Coffey down for the rest of the season.
Dupree McBrayer sat out the second half of the Nebraska game due to a shin injury that hampered him earlier this season. His status is also in question heading into this game. If both players miss this contest, it will be that much harder for the Gophers to accumulate any offense. It will once again be up to Nate Mason and Jordan Murphy to supply a vast majority of the offense for the team. Mason is coming off two huge games with 25 points against Michigan and 34 against the Huskers. As for Murphy, he is coming off a nice 22 point and 13 rebound performance on Tuesday.
It has been clear for awhile that the Gophers just do not have the horses to keep up with even the lesser Big Ten schools. They will go only as far as Mason and Murphy will carry them.
Before beating Rutgers on Monday, the Hoosiers were riding a four game losing streak. While this losing streak is certainly detrimental to the team’s long term success, it is slightly deceiving. Three of those four losses came to the three best teams in the conference in Michigan State, Purdue, and Ohio State. Yes, every loss stings, but those losses were to teams that are clearly better than Indiana.
Now sitting at 6-7 in the conference, one has to assume that Archie Miller may be okay with finishing .500 in the Big Ten. They have a fantastic opportunity to get back to .500 this evening at home. Both Juwan Morgan and Robert Johnson tore up the Gophers last time these two teams met, scoring a combined 48 points. Minnesota lacks the defensive presence to defend Morgan on the inside, and if Johnson can penetrate the lane, it could be a long night for the Gophers. Low team morale and lack of overall talent will really cripple Minnesota in this one.
- Pick Against the Spread: Indiana