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Berggren & Bruesewitz

Game Preview: Gophers vs. Wisconsin 2/14/13

02/14/2013, 9:30am CST
By J.B. Bauer

Valentine's Day War: No Love Lost in the Barn

The #20/19 Wisconsin Badgers (17-7, 8-3) are in Minneapolis to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers (17-7, 5-6). Two Badger seniors from the state of Minnesota - Jared Berggren and Mike Bruesewitz - celebrated after an overtime victory over Michigan on Saturday and look to continue the good times back in their home state tonight. Tip is set for 6pm CT on ESPN. (Photo: Mary Langenfeld / USA TODAY Sports)

Sam Dekker

Freshman Sam Dekker had 10 points and 6 rebounds in his first game against Minnesota (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Game Preview: #20/19 Wisconsin (17-7, 8-3) at rv/rv Minnesota (17-7, 5-6) 2/14/13

Minnesota trailed Illinois on Sunday by just one point. With time running out on the shot clock and 15 seconds left in the game, Illinois point guard Tracy Abrams made his first 3-pointer of the night to seal the 57-53 victory. 

In a contest during which the Gophers looked off for much of the 40 minutes, it was perhaps fitting that guarding the 6’1” Abrams all alone on the perimeter was Minnesota’s 7-foot center Elliot Eliason. 

The Gophers will now try to refocus and pick up a much needed win on Valentine’s Day.

Games against the Wisconsin Badgers always take on a certain importance as a rivalry game. Having lost six of the last eight games, Thursday night’s date with Bo Ryan takes on even more meaning than usual for Tubby Smith and the basketball program.

Minnesota’s RPI helps get them into the discussion of the NCAA tournament, but when it comes to seeding those who have the Gophers at 5 or 6 may be overly aggressive at this point in time. The Gophers have an excellent strength of schedule (SOS), but SOS doesn’t mean you’ve played a lot of great teams. 

Impressive wins, such as those against teams in the top 25 and top 50 of the RPI, have been difficult to come by for Minnesota. Thursday’s game against Wisconsin represents the best chance at earning another quality victory before the regular Big Ten schedule ends. Ohio State (Gophers play in Columbus) and Indiana (Hoosiers visit Minneapolis) are the other two opponents with a strong RPI remaining on the schedule.

Wisconsin beat Minnesota 45-44 in Madison on January 26. The rematch should look different when it comes to the four factors. 

Each season the Badgers are routinely a slow tempo team, but the Gophers are making a push to finish the year in Wisconsin’s neighborhood. Over their last six games, Minnesota has averaged only 56 possessions per 40 minutes and they are playing slower than they have in many years. 

Some of this is because teams look to control the pace when playing the Gophers. In addition, Minnesota’s half court sets occasionally start out with something that doesn’t look much different than a four corners stall offense.

The Badgers are averaging 59 possessions per 40 minutes over their last six games and the 51 possessions in the January 26 game were the lowest for either team this season. It won’t be a fast paced affair on Valentine’s Day, but mid-to-high 50’s would be a reasonable projection.

At home, Wisconsin outshot Minnesota 44.6% eFG% to 40.2%, but made only 31.8% (7/22) of their 3-point field goal attempts. 

Veterans Jared Berggren, Mike Bruesewitz and Ben Brust combined for 8 points on 3/15 shooting (2/10 3FG).

The Gophers managed to make 5/11 (45.5%) 3-point attempts but they only converted 11/35 (31.4%) of their 2-point tries. 

Rodney Williams, Austin Hollins and Joe Coleman combined for 6 points on 2/22 shooting (0/5 3FG). 

The shooting by both teams in Minneapolis should be improved as compared to the first meeting. Wisconsin hasn’t had many great 3-point shooting performances in Big Ten play this season, but if they can come close to their performance this past weekend against Michigan (10/24 3FG for 41.7%), the Gophers will have ground to make up in other areas of the game.

Surprisingly, net turnovers favored Minnesota by 1 (10 to 9). The Gophers’ turnover rate of 18% was one of two Big Ten games in which they’ve turned the ball over in less than 20% of their possessions.

The smart bet would be on Wisconsin winning the turnover battle this time around, but Minnesota can’t let the margin put a win out of reach.

Minnesota’s offensive rebounding percent has waned, but it’s still tops in the nation for the year and the Big Ten’s best in conference games. Wisconsin has one of the best defensive rebounding percentages in all of college basketball and they are the Big Ten’s best.

Rebounding is an area the Gophers can and should gain an advantage, but they were unable to at Wisconsin.  The Badgers were better on both sides of the boards and limited Minnesota to a season-low 25.0% offensive rebounding rate.

Neither team got to the charity stripe often in the first game and Wisconsin wouldn’t mind if that was true again at Williams Arena. The Gophers’ offense benefits from their ability to get to the free throw line, but they had their third lowest free throw rate of the season at Wisconsin.


  • Despite popular belief, tempo generally doesn't correlate strongly with efficiency in college basketball. For Minnesota this season there is some (but not significant) positive correlation between pace of play and offensive efficiency and essentially no correlation between tempo and defensive efficiency.
  • According to Late Night Hoops, the cost to buy out Tubby Smith's contract at the end of this season would be around $3.25 million, but they note that this is an increase of only $900,000 compared to what the cost would have been had his agreement not been amended last summer.
  • The Gophers are 4 to 5 point favorites in Vegas. projects a 3 point win for Minnesota. 
  • Senior forward Andre Ingram played 20 minutes of solid basketball against Wisconsin a few weeks ago. Center Elliot Eliason spent just 12 minutes on the court. Based on recent usage and play, Eliason likely has an opportunity to stay on the court a lot longer tonight.
  • Tonight is a "Gold-Out" at Williams Arena. Fans are encouraged to wear their gold. Red is heavily discouraged.

J.B. Bauer on Twitter 

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Tag(s): Gopher Basketball