UPDATE: Following an 0-4 start, tonight's starting lineup contains three changes -- Freshman Nate Mason will start for struggling point guard DeAndre Mathieu, Charles Buggs will go for Carlos Morris and Elliott Elliason will replace Mo Walker at center.
Nate Mason, Andre Hollins, Charles Buggs, Joey King, Elliott Eliason
Tonight's game vs. Ohio State at Williams Arena tips at 8 p.m. Watch on Big Ten Network or listen live on 1500-a.m.
Five things to watch tonight:
Change is on the horizon. Coach Richard Pitino said he's thinking about shaking up the lineup tonight, so don't be surprised if we see a significantly different one at the start. Can that help the Gophers break out of their slump? Well, assuming we see Nate Mason in for DeAndre Mathieu, Minnesota could actually benefit from the freshman getting the extra minutes. Otherwise, I think all this would be -- for now -- is an attempted kick in the pants for some of the existing starters. Whatever Pitino trots out tonight isn't necessarily a long-term switch either. Remember that the coach is talking about playing Gaston Diedhiou, a guy who hasn't played a minute of basketball at the collegiate level, perhaps over starter Joey King. If that experiment goes really poorly, it might not last very long.
How's the mental state? Physically, Pitino says his team is playing as hard as he could possibly hope. But that extra toughness that comes from will? The Gophers are clearly lacking, having lost three conference games by two possessions or fewer while blowing two second-half leads of nine or more. Now, having dug an 0-4 hole, that mental toughness will be tested more than ever. Can Minnesota keep from pointing fingers over the litany of turnovers, fouls and small mistakes that have plagued them at the end of games? Can the Gophers seize the opportunity to turn their luck around against a talented Iowa team tonight? "Maybe they're playing with a little too much weight on their shoulders," Pitino said. "I'm not sure what it is."
Road magic. For a team that was supposed to take "the next step" so far this season, Iowa can't be happy about its five losses so far. But all of the Hawkeyes' losses so far this season are pretty quality -- falling to Texas, Syracuse and Northern Iowa on neutral courts, and Iowa State and Michigan State at home -- and Iowa has shown plenty capable and talented. One place it hasn't lost? In true road games. The Hawkeyes are 2-0 on the road this year, both of those coming in fairly impressive locations -- at North Carolina and at Ohio State. Can Iowa keep the magic going at Williams Arena.
Frontcourt challenges. The Hawkeyes' backcourt might be struggling somewhat after the loss of big point guard Roy Devyn Marble (currently with the Orlando Magic), but the frontcourt is rolling. Complete senior Aaron White and versatile Jarrod Uthoff combine for a formidable forward duo while the Hawkeyes boast two very apt and different centers in Gabe Olaseni -- who blocks shots and is capable of scoring big -- and Adam Woodbury, a more physical presence on the boards. Outside of Mo Walker, who will have his hands full, and Elliott Eliason, whose value mostly comes in defense and rebounding, the Gophers don't have a lot of options to throw at Iowa. King is averaging just 1.8 rebounds and 6.8 points in the conference schedule. Charles Buggs has been a defensive disaster. Diedhiou could help with sheer size and effort on the glass if he isn't too much of a liability otherwise.
Free throws. Iowa is one of the best free-throw shooting teams nationally, making 76.7 percent of its shots and landing eighth nationwide. Minnesota, on the other hand, is not only a very BAD free-throw shooting team (64.7 percent), but the Gophers also send opponents to the line far too often -- Minnesota foes get 38.6 attempts from the line for every 100 shots attempted, according to kenpom.com. That's not a good combination. In the last four games, Minnesota has been outshot by 17 free throws and 73.6 percent (opponents) to 55.3 percent (MN). If the Gophers keep those bad trends up tonight, they could be staring at 0-5.