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Scouting Notes: Minnesota



Indiana basketball vs Minnesota basketball
A deep dive into Minnesota and some of the challenges it could give the Indiana basketball program in Friday's matchup. (Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports)

Indiana basketball goes back to Assembly Hall looking to bounce back from its Rutgers loss by hosting the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Friday night.

Minnesota comes in with an 12-3 record overall and is 3-1 in Big Ten play. Ben Johnson is in his third season and has his most talented roster yet. The Gophers are ranked 77th in the nation in offensive efficiency with a rating of 110.6. Defensively, their rating is 100.7, ranked 89th nationally. Overall, Minnesota is rated 77th in the KenPom ratings.

Here is a deep dive into some of the challenges Minnesota could give the Indiana basketball program.

Key Players

Dawson Garcia enters as the top player for the Gophers, but is still finding his rhythm following an injury that kept him out a few weeks in December. Garcia is an athletic and extremely skilled forward who can score at all three levels. The smooth lefty can play on the block both with his back to the basket or facing up. He has good ball handling ability as a forward that allows him to take defenders off of the dribble from the perimeter. While he’s shooting just 24.2 percent on 3s this season, he shot 34.5 percent or better in each of his previous three years. He’s at his best as a screener and rolling to about 15 feet. That’s his sweet spot where he can knock down the mid range shot or attack the paint with one or two dribbles. Once he’s inside 15 feet, he’s typically drawing a foul, attempting 5.9 per game — and making 84.5 percent. He ranks third in the Big Ten in fouls drawn per game.

In the backcourt, Mike Mitchell provides a terrific three point shooter after transferring in from Pepperdine. Mitchell is a career 41.9 percent shooter from three and is converting on 41 percent this season on 2.3 made 3s per game. But, that’s strictly what Mitchell is. While he does have some ability to attack off of the dribble, he’s best as a jump shooter. 61.1 percent of his attempts this season are from three and 53.8 percent of his made field goals in his career are 3s. He is terrific off of the catch or dribble and with his quick release, he’s very difficult to pressure. The Indiana basketball guards absolutely need to run him off of the perimeter and force him into the paint. He typically tris to avoid contact and will rarely try to score through it.

With Mitchell in the backcourt is the motor of this team in Elijah Hawkins. The Howard transfer is second the nation in assists at 7.8 per game and has a 2.9 assist-to-turnover ratio. When the ball is in his hands, he’s looking to create off of the dribble. He has an assist rate of 40.5 percent, ranked sixth in the country. He set the Minnesota single-game assist record against IUPUI this season with 17. His best asset is his ability to pass teammates open and make easy scoring opportunities with his vision. He can be flashy while also making the simple pass — something that can be easily overlooked. He’s a quick-twitch guard who can get into the lane, but his vision is exceptional even a few feet outside of the there-point line. Mitchell is a very good shooter as well, just not a high-volume one. He’s shooting 38.8 percent on 3.3 3s this per game and has seven games with at least two made 3s. Defensively, Hawkins averages 2.0 steals per game — second in the league — and ranks third in steal percentage.

Cam Christie is another shooter in the backcourt. The 6-foot-6 freshman has terrific size and some versatility to his game. While he’s best shooting on the wing, 39.5 percent on 4.9 attempts per game, he can take defenders off of the dribble and finish either at the rim or in the mid-range area. Christie still needs ball screens to free himself on the perimeter, however. If the Indiana guards can fight through screens and force him to try and create for himself, his efficiency does go down a bit.

Joshua Ola-Joseph is in the front court with Garcia. He is very effective off of the ball — moving without the ball, finding open areas in the defense and using his high IQ to create space for cutters and shooters. Ola-Joseph is rarely going to have plays run for him, yet he’s one of the most efficient players in the Big Ten. He ranks second in two-point field goal percentage (66.7) and first in true shooting percentage (69.8). While he’s shooting 50 percent from three, he’s nowhere near the volume shooter like the other wings on the roster. He’s attempted just 24 3s this year.

Coming off the bench is 6-foot-8 and 250-pound Pharrel Payne. Payne is a very physical post player who is best on the glass and defending the rim. He ranks sixth in the league in blocks as well as offensive rebound percentage. When he’s on the floor, he does a tremendous job sealing his defender and getting terrific positioning in the paint. All of his action comes on the block, posing as no real threat outside of five feet. His physicality will impact the Indiana basketball bigs.

Key Tendencies

Minnesota plays team basketball on every single possession with a lot of different playmakers who provide great floor spacing. The best part of the Gophers offense is their ability to share the ball. Minnesota averages 19.8 assists per game — fifth in the nation — and have an assist on 69.1 percent of made field goals — second in the country. The offense is orchestrated by Elijah Hawkins and his ability to create easy scoring opportunities for his teammates. But, there are six players who can beat Indiana — all averaging at least nine points per game. The Gophers aren’t overly explosive in any area offensively but are very good in numerous areas, especially with its efficiency. They are 14th in the country in 2pt field goal rate at 57.3 percent and then 66th in 3s at 36.1 percent. If they miss, they clean up on the offensive glass as well, with a 34.4 percent offensive rebound rate. For reference, Rutgers was 31.8 percent and Ohio State was 36.6 percent. One area that they struggle with is live ball turnovers. opponents have a steal rate of 11 percent, ranked 282nd nationally, so if Indiana basketball can get some easy transition opportunities and finally have its defense help its offense, it could go a long way in helping determine this one.

Defensively, Minnesota is very effective in the paint as well as defending the three — making life difficult on most opponents. The Gophers have a lot of versatility on the perimeter that allows for switches on ball screens or handoffs to limit easy or open looks from three. Opponents are able to get off just 29.4 of their overall shot attempts from three — ranked 14th in the country. Opponents are making just 5.7 3s per game. In the paint, ranks 53rd in block percentage at 12 percentage — averaging over five blocks per game. Indiana basketball needs to be ready for open looks. It had numerous against Rutgers, all resulting in missed 3s.

Overall, this is a game in which the Indiana basketball guards absolutely need to show up for. With the ability that Minnesota has to convert from the perimeter and score with its guards, Indiana must match that. Look for some double-teams to come on touches for Kel’el Ware and Malik Reneau, so if Indiana isn’t able to convert on some of the open shots it sees, it will be a long night offensively. On the flip side, Indiana has to limit what Elijah Hawkins does on the floor. Xavier Johnson will be tasked with defending him and he needs to have intense ball pressure to limit the vision — his best asset. Overhelping on dribble drives will likely be an issue in this one and Indiana must be able to close out to the numerous shooters on the floor.

Projected Starters

G – Elijah Hawkins (Junior; 5-11, 170)

Stats: 8.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 7.8 apg, 38.8% 3pt

G – Mike Mitchell (Junior; 6-2, 185)

Stats: 11.1 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 2.7 apg, 41% 3pt

G – Cam Christie (Freshman; 6-6, 190)

Stats: 10.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.3 apg, 39.5% 3pt

F – Joshua Ola-Joseph (Sophomore; 6-7, 215)

Stats: 10.7 ppg, 2.6 rpg

F – Dawson Garcia (Junior; 6-11, 230)

Stats: 16.7 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2.2 apg

Key Notes

  • Elijah Hawkins is second in the nation in assists, while the Gophers ranks fifth
  • Minnesota’s bench has outscored opposing benches in 14 of 15 games this year
  • Minnesota has had five players score in double-figures in six different games this season
  • Indiana holds the all-time record of 101-67, while the Gophers haven’t won in Bloomington since 2012

SEE ALSO: A consistent message falling on deaf ears — the lack of leadership is concerning for Indiana basketball

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Alec Lasley is the owner of Hoosier Illustrated, a comprehensive site covering news, updates and recruiting for Indiana University athletics. Alec has covered Indiana for six years and is a credentialed media member. He has previously worked for both Rivals and 247Sports.