I wrote for today’s paper on the Gophers’ ongoing turnover problem.
As I pointed out there, while Minnesota has given the appearance of improving to some degree in the past few games, that perception is a little deceiving.
Most notably, in the game at Michigan State on Wednesday, the Gophers turned the ball over 12 times, a tick below their 13.2 average in conference play (they average 13.8 all year) and on the lower side for a team had 17 miscues at Indiana.
But consider that the Gophers only had 55 possessions at MSU (their second fewest of the season), and those 12 turnovers break down into turnovers occurring in 21.8 percent of their possessions (which is actually higher than their 20.8 average according to TeamRankings.com)
But perhaps a bigger concern is that the Gophers’ diminished shooting lately has left their penchant for turnovers more exposed than ever. Against Indiana, Minnesota had the most possessions it has had all season, but they still had turnovers on 23 percent of their possessions. Nonetheless, the Gophers were in it at the end because they hit 11 3-pointers in that game.
Against Illinois the last time around, the Gophers had 15 turnovers, but shot 52.9 percent from the field and 60 percent from 3-point range. You won’t lose many games doing that. (Unless you’re Nebraska. Or the Hoosiers against Illinois for that matter. I digress.)
Can the Gophers shoot that way again tonight? They might need to. In the Gophers' past three wins (Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois), they’ve shot 50.9 from the field and 43 percent from 3-point range. In their last three losses (Michigan State, Wisconsin, Northwestern), they’ve shot 34.9 from the field and 31.9 from 3-point range.
Meanwhile, when it comes to the turnover game, Illinois clearly has the advantage. The Illini only turn over on 17.5 percent of their possessions by average (ranked No. 42 in the nation while the Gophers are at No. 232 according to Teamrankings.com) while they force opponents to turn over on 21.2 percent of their possessions.
The other big concern for Minnesota is the Illini’s propensity for the 3-pointer. The Gophers’ opponents have made 33.5 percent of their 3-pointers this season, but a lot of that comes down to the simple average made regardless of the presence of perimeter defense. The reality is, the Gophers are very susceptible to a team getting hot beyond the arc. Ray Gallegos did when Nebraska was in town, and the Gophers couldn’t stop him (he hit six of nine). Gary Harris did at Michigan State and the Gophers were helpless there once more (he hit four of eight).
In the past two games, Illinois has made 18 3-pointers, the same total the Gophers have made in the last four. And the Illini have consistently shown they’re not shy in throwing up shots. Nationwide, they rank 12th in 3-pointers attempted per game (24). If they get hot, the Gophers could be in trouble.
- Watch tonight’s game live on Big Ten Network
- Listen to tonight’s game live on 1500-a.m.
- Wally Ellenson will miss one to two weeks with a strained left Achilles tendon. Austin Hollins should be good to go after dealing with a migraine before the Gophers’ previous game.
- In today’s Star Tribune: more on the turnover/shooting issues for the Gophers.
- On the blog: talking about Illinois’ momentous win over No. 1 Indiana.
- Check out more on the matchup here.
- Recruit Gavin Schilling reduced his list of schools to four; includes the Gophers. Our Q & A here.
- This week's national notebook looks at Miami's surprising ACC run.
- Bigfoot click: An interview with the man who recorded the Sierra Sounds (best vocalizations of Sasquatch ever recorded), which I can’t get enough of (also, this guy is just as cool as a cucumber as I love it).