NO. 24 INDIANA (21-7, 8-7 Big Ten) AT MINNESOTA (17-11, 5-10 Big Ten)
Time: 1 p.m.
TV: ESPN (Dave O’Brien and Dan Dackich)
Location: Williams Arena in Minneapolis
Indiana 18 (No. 4 Big Ten)
Minnesota 78 (No. 9 Big Ten)
Line: Minnesota -1.5 (139.5)
Indiana Players to Watch: F Cody Zeller, 6-11 Fr. (15.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 64.4% FG); G Victor Oladipo, 6-5 So. (11 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.5 spg); F Christian Watford, 6-9 Jr. (11.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 42% 3s). Zeller has been named Big Ten Freshman of the Week six times and is one of five finalists nationally for the Wayman Tisdale Award as the nation’s top freshman. Zeller is sixth in the Big Ten in scoring and rebounding and leads the league in field goal percentage.
Minnesota Players to Watch: F Rodney Williams, 6-7 Jr. (11 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 56.5% FG); G Julian Welch, 6-3 Jr. (10.5 ppg, 3 apg, 44.3% 3s); C Ralph Sampson III, 6-11 Sr. (7.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.1 bpg). Williams, who had 10 points and five boards in Wednesday’s 66-61 loss to No. 6 Michigan State, leads the Gophers in scoring, rebounding, steals and field goal percentage.
Storylines: Despite a loss to Iowa in its last Big Ten outing, Indiana appears secure for an NCAA bid with an 8-7 league record and its final two games at home, where the Hoosiers are 16-1 this season. Indiana completed a perfect 13-0 non-conference mark for the first time in 22 years with a 75-56 win over North Carolina Central on Wednesday. The Gophers are fighting for their post-season lives after four straight losses, with three of those coming at Williams Arena.
Keys: Minnesota handed the then-No. 8 Hoosiers their only home loss of the season on Jan. 12 to end a 4-game losing streak. Austin Hollins scored 18 points in the victory as the Gophers held Indiana to 4-for-18 from the 3-point line and 43.6 percent from the field. The Hoosiers are third in the nation in field goal percentage (49.2), eighth in 3-point percentage (42.4) and 22nd in free throw percentage (75.2). The Hoosiers lead the Big Ten in scoring at 77.9 points per game, but they are 11th in scoring defense, allowing 67.4 per contest. The Gophers are fourth in the Big Ten in field goal percentage (47.0) and fourth in field goal defense (41.4). Minnesota blocks 5.1 shots per game, which is tops in the conference. Minnesota turns the ball over 15.6 times per contest, which is the second-most in the Big Ten, but the Gophers also force the most errors at 14.2 per. Both teams are good rebounding squads. Indiana out-rebounds its opponents by four per contest, while the Gophers have a plus-3.3 rebounding margin. Minnesota is 12-5 at home this season, but is just 2-5 at Williams Arena in Big Ten games. Indiana has won just twice away from home in conference play (88-82 over Penn State on Jan. 8 and 78-61 at rival Purdue on Feb. 4).
The Bottom Line: Gut says Indiana wins, but the key variables – including homecourt advantage – favor Minnesota slightly. This is a tough pick and it should be an entertaining, see-saw battle.
The Pick: Indiana 70, Minnesota 69