Big Ten play continues Sunday afternoon at Mackey Arena as the Boilers will put their first place status on the line when the Minnesota Golden Gophers come to town. Minnesota has been a decent surprise this year. They got through their non-conference season at 12-1 and they are at least in a position to make the NCAA Tournament after winning only eight games a year ago. They technically have the highest RPI in the Big Ten right now at 20, so a win would be a pretty good one for a little while. This is also the only time Purdue meets the Gophers this season.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
From: Minneapolis, MN
Date: Sunday, January 1, 2017
Tip Time: 4:30 p.m. ET
Location: West Lafayette, IN
Arena: Mackey Arena (14,804)
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
Odds: Purdue by 12
2015-16 Record: 8-23, 2016 Big Ten
2016-17 Record: 12-2, 0-1 Big Ten
Opponent Blog: The Daily Gopher
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 101-82
Last Minnesota Win: 62-58 at Minnesota on 2/7/2015
Last Purdue Win: 68-64 at Minnesota on 1/27/2016
NCAA Tournament History: 12 Appearances, last in 2013. 1997 Final Four (That NEVER HAPPENED according to the NCAA).
Minnesota was just awful last season. Their best win was a shocking home win over Maryland that showed just how overrated and underachieving the Terrapins were. They then lost to Rutgers in the final game of the year with multiple players suspended. That had expectations low and Little Pitino on a bit of a hot seat coming into this season
Things have gone much better though. The lone loss was at Florida State in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge in a game Minnesota led at halftime. They are the only team that has beaten Arkansas, which is a nice little home win. They have also beaten Vanderbilt and St. John’s In terms of a common opponent they were pushed by NJIT before winning 74-68. They probably should be 1-0 in league play, but they blew their opener Tuesday night against Michigan State by blowing a big lead and then running two awful final possession plays in regulation and overtime.
It also should be noted that the margin of victory in the last five games with Minnesota has been no larger than 4. Last season Caleb Swanigan was out when Purdue went to Minneapolis, but Vince Edwards scored 24 as the Boilers pulled out a 68-64 win. His two free throws with seven seconds left sealed the deal.
This season Minnesota has had very balanced scoring with four players in double figures. Nate Mason, a 6’2” junior guard, leads them at 13.5 points and 5.4 assists per game. He is also shooting 43.5% from three. Dupree McBrayer (12.7 ppg) and Amir Coffey (12.3) are solid wings that can also shoot the ball well. Jordan Murphy, a 6’6” sophomore, averages 10.6 points and is their top rebounder at 8.6 per game.
Drawing the assignment in the middle is the 6’10” Reggie Lynch. Lynch scores 8.1 points but only averages 5.9 rebounds per game. He is one of the best shot blockers in the nation, however, at 3.2 per game. He is second in the conference behind Mike Watkins at Penn State, but someone needed to be No. 1 now that A.J. Hammons is in the NBA.
Overall Minnesota is just a solid team. A total of seven players average more than 6 points per game. Lynch and Bakary Konate give them enough size that they can at least try to match up with Swanigan and Isaac Haas. They are young too, with Springs being the lone senior that sees regular action. They are 7th in the Big Ten in scoring at 76.9 per game and 8th in defense at 65.4 per game. Basically, they middle of the pack in virtually every major category.
That means very little though. Nebraska is the lowest scoring team at 70.5 per game and just beat the highest scoring team in Indiana (88.4 ppg). They are not going to shoot a ton of threes, so Purdue will have to be strong as they take it to the basket. They are only 10th in the conference at 34.6% from long range and they have only 260 attempts compared to Purdue’s 329.
Another concern is their three-point defense. They are the best in the Big Ten at it by holding teams to 28.4%. Their recipe for an upset is to hassle Purdue into a cold shooting night from long range while crashing down on Haas and Swanigan. Purdue is going to need to stay hot from outside, which is something we have managed to do in most games this season. We definitely have the better team here, but Minnesota is more than good enough to spring an upset if we’re napping.