Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Game Preview: Gophers vs. Buckeyes

Well that Iowa game was certainly demoralizing.  I think anybody who was holding out hope, like I have to admit I was, that that rough stretch was simply that - a rough stretch - can now stop holding out hope, whatever that means.  After looking like world beaters to begin the year, the Gophers are now 3-7 in their last ten with those three wins all coming at home versus a terrible Nebraska team, a last second miracle win over Iowa, and a lucky OT win versus Wisconsin.  Gross.  The weaknesses (turnovers, outside shooting) have continued to be weaknesses while one of the team's biggest strengths (defense) has disappeared.  Combine that with the team's continued inability to generate offense versus a zone (seriously, have you ever seen anything worse than that last Iowa game) and the Gophers have turned from a sleeper Final Four candidate to a team that will crawl into the NCAA Tournament based on strong computer numbers and a hot start.  I cannot wait to bet against them in the first round.  BOATLOADS.  And it's too bad too, because Ohio State is a vulnerable team.

There's nothing bad here in Ohio State's record.  Their only home losses have been to Indiana and Kansas and they do have a nice home win over Michigan that they almost blew, but over their last 8 games they only thing resembling a good win is at home over Wisconsin, and they're coming off an absolutely embarrassing blowout loss in Madison.  If they were facing a good team that played good defense, this could be a good spot for an upset.  Alas.

The reason I think the Buckeyes are a vulnerable team is that their offense is basically DeShaun Thomas.  They play great defense (believe it or not Aaron Craft is actually not overrated) but if a team could find a way to limit Thomas (and good luck because the only times he's scored less than 16 in a game this year were blowout wins for OSU) they'd have a shot because nobody else is a reliable scorer.  Ohio State has a ton of great athletes, but none are very effective scorers and there is nobody who can score on the block as  Evan Ravenel, Trey McDonald, and Amir Williams are more defense and rebounding at this point (well, Ravenel is a senior so I guess this is as good as it gets for him) so neither would require any doubling.  LaQuinton Ross and Lenzelle Smith are big and athletic but are pretty raw wing players, while Aaron Craft can't shoot, Sam Thompson is an athlete more than a scorer (think Rodney), and Shannon Scott is a very good guard but not a scorer.

The way to beat OSU is actually pretty simple - have a dominant inside presence with good wing defense and you'll be in the game (at least on the defensive side of the ball).  The Gophers should have that.  Mbakwe, Williams, and Elliason shouldn't require any help when the Buckeye big guys get the ball down low, so the perimeter defense shouldn't have to scramble to cover open shooters (and Thomas, Scott, Ross, and Smith can all hit the three).  There should be zero doubling at all, and at absolutely no time should Austin Hollins (or Williams) leave Thomas - EVER.  Unfortunately we've seen this play out too many times, and somehow the Gophers will still manage to leave shooters open time after time.

And, as much as there is a good blueprint on taking down Ohio State, there's an even easier one for beating Minnesota - play zone, which the Buckeyes will early and often.

Ohio State 70, Minnesota 51

1 comment:

Dawg said...

Everybody knows how well you do on your NCAA brackets. I hope you pick them to lose in the 1st round as they would then inevitably be good for at least 2 wins.