Preview: Minnesota

Or: Tim’s foray into tempo-free statistics.

Michigan takes on the Golden Gophers at 7PM tonight on BTN. The game takes place in Crisler Arena, where some tickets are still available.

Tempo-Free and efficiency comparison (if you need an explanation of what any of these things mean, head to KenPom’s website), wherein the Gophers are “O” for “opponent”:

Michigan v. Minnesota: National Ranks
Category Michigan Minnesota Advantage
Mich eFG% v. Minn eFG% D 159 63 O
Mich eFG% D v. Minn eFG% 156 115 O
Mich TO% v. Minn Def TO% 27 27
Mich Def TO% v. Minn TO% 150 226 M
Mich OReb% v. Minn DReb% 258 263
Mich DReb% v. Minn OReb% 200 60 OO
Mich FTR v. Minn Opp FTR 319 200 OO
Mich Opp FTR v. Minn FTR 30 231 MMM
Mich AdjO v. Minn AdjD 66 44 O
Mich AdjD v. Minn AdjO 81 75

Differences of more than 100 places in the rankings garner two-letter advantages, differences of more than 200 get a third.

Michigan and Minnesota are very even teams, with pushes in 3 categories, and only 3 in which there is more than a single-letter advantage. Of course, there is the fact that Minnesota did it against a much easier schedule. However, both teams have struggled in conference play, and it’s hard to make any meaningful comparisons about schedule strength without conference-only numbers. Michigan wants to force the Gophers into turnovers and rebound as many of their own misses as they can. If the Wolverines were to be able to get to the line (which they won’t, because Big Ten refs hate Manny Harris), it would also help out their offensive efficiency. KenPom predicts a 65-63 Wolverines win in a 63-possession game.

Minnesota has a fairly talented team, and if there’s one area Tubby Smith has excelled, it’s bringing in a lot of talent. Guard Lawrence Westbrook takes up most of the Gophers’ possessions, and is the team leader in drawing fouls. Fellow guard Al Nolen is actually the leader in getting to the line for Minnesota, and he leads the team in assists. One thing that the Gophers do very well is get blocks (they lead the nation), and they have three players (Damien Johnson, Ralph Sampson III, and Colton Iverson) in the nation’s top 40. Sampson, a 6-11 center, also leads the team in offensive rating.

After starting the season 16-1, the Gophers have dropped 5 of 8, with two of the wins nailbiters over Indiana (the other was a blowout of Illinois). They are certainly sliding now. The Gophers should be vulnerable, but they’re fighting for their tournament lives, just like the Wolverines. Michigan needs three more regular-season victories for a chance at making the tournament, and the two games against Minnesota are going to be very important unless they pull a big upset somewhere (home to Purdue or @Wisconsin).

Posted under Analysis, Basketball
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