Where: Williams Arena, Minneapolis, MN
When: 3:00 PM, January 26, 2020
TV/Radio: Fox/Spartan Sports Radio
Minnesota 11-8 (5-4): #34 (Kenpom)
1 - Marcus Carr (6’2” so)
2 - Gabe Kalscheur (6’4” so)
3 - Payton Willis (6’4” jr), Tre’ Williams (6’5” fr)
4 - Alihan Demir (6’9” sr), Jarvis Omersa (6’6” so)
5 - Daniel Oturu (6’10” so)
Minnesota has had a ho-hum season despite playing some pretty decent basketball. When we last saw them they were in a similar situation to where they are now:
Oturu averaging ~20 ppg, ~11 rpg, and ~2.5 blks (113 Ortg, 27% usg, ~30% from 3)
Carr averaging ~16 ppg, ~5 rpg, ~7 apg (109 Ortg, 27% usg, ~34% from 3)
Kalscheur averaging ~12 ppg (~100 Ortg, 18% usg, ~33% from 3 on 7 3pt FGA per game)
Willis and Demir are both averaging ~8-9 ppg, and both are >31% from 3
Now that Hurt has been dropped from the rotation, they only play two guys off the bench in Williams and Omersa. The song remains the same: Oturu is superb off the bounce, in the post, on the glass, and defensively. Carr is an athletic, competitive gamer, unafraid of big moments, and capable of going on scoring tears. Kalscheur and Willis are 3pt snipers and very good defenders on the wing, and Demir has got a bit of savy and solid size. They are solid on both ends, particularly on offense (notice that all 5 starters are 3pt threats).
But Minnesota doesn’t run a ton of difficult actions, sets, or styles on offense, and they play really slow (given their complete lack of depth due to injuries), which makes them straightforward to defend. They beat teams through individuals winning match-ups, and through guys hitting tough shots. Of late, Carr has been on a tear scoring +20 points in 3 out of the last 4 (after Minnesota’s loss in Breslin), and beating OSU with a dagger 3 in the last seconds of the game; he also still has a penchant for fouling - so hopefully Cash can magic Carr to the bench for some long stretches.
Same as it ever was... Cash needs to bounce back and find two great halves of basketball, which will be difficult against a very-in-form Carr. Tillman and the rest of the bigs have to make Oturu as inefficient as possible - don’t let him get on the block in deep position please. And Henry, Brown, and Watts have got to be aggressive on offense and sound on defense.
I expect very little digging or doubling, and for Izzo to start out with one-on-one post defense against Oturu. As poorly as Bingham jr has played in the last five games, he is a solid bet to keep his starting role just so that Tillman doesn’t have to start on Oturu. That being said, Kithier, Bingham jr, and Marble have to be ready to play, focused on the glass, and ready to compete - they were all poor in Bloomington.
Tillman will likely get plenty of time guarding Oturu, and he was superb defensively in the first match-up, which should give Malik Hall a chance to build on his solid performance at Indiana. Hall can get at Demir and Omersa off the bounce, and with his shooting (assuming he actually... you know... shoots open 3’s), but he will have to stay solid when he is in the game no matter who he is guarding (Demir had 8 first half points in the first match-up mostly because whoever was guarding him didn’t respect him and didn’t contest his drives and post position).
Ultimately, I think this game goes down as a turning point win, and as the first major step in this team solidifying roles (look for Hall to close both halves assuming no crazy foul-trouble) and learning to win conference games on the road.
But don’t let their record fool you (he said, willing that the players take this message to heart as I am sure the coaching staff is repeating it over and over again). This Minnesota starting five is really good, and if MSU lets Carr go off, then the season’s fortunes will really take a hit because MSU still has five tougher conference road games still to come.
MSU 75 Minn 68