Tubby Smith's fifth season at Minnesota has been a mixed bag. The talented Golden Gophers come into this contest with a 12-5 record, but since going 12-1 in non-conference play, UM has dropped four straight to begin Big Ten play, including last weekend's 79-66 home game against Purdue.
Tom Crean's Hoosiers are ready to vie for a conference crown. Indiana is an impressive 15-1 on the season, with the lone loss coming at red-hot Michigan State. The team does have a couple of marquee wins to its credit, topping both Kentucky (73-72) and Ohio State (74-70) and is coming off a shootout win over Penn State (88-82) to move to 3-1 in the Big Ten.
Indiana holds a 93-65 lead in the all-time series with Minnesota, but the two squads have split the season series the last two years. with all four games won by the home team.
The loss of star forward Trevor Mbakwe (14.0 ppg, 9.1 rpg) has certainly aided in Minnesota's decline in play of late. Mbakwe went down with a knee injury a couple of weeks ago and the team has struggled to fill the void. Rodney Williams has done his best to assuage the loss with averages of 10.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. Williams is averaging a near double-double in league play at 12.2 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. He is joined in double- figure scoring this year by Julian Welch at 10.2 ppg. However, the scoring pool dries up fast after that, as Ralph Sampson III ranks third on the team at 8.8 ppg, although he has upped his play in league action to 10.5 ppg. Minnesota fell victim to a hot-shooting Purdue squad that connected on 10 three-pointers in the first half and then held on for a 13-point win in Minneapolis on Sunday. Williams led the charge in defeat with a double-double of 19 points and 14 rebounds. Joe Coleman added 14 points, while Chip Armelin finished with 12 points off the bench.
The Hoosiers are one of those teams that can win games at either end of the floor, as evidenced by its impressive +18.6 scoring margin. The real strength is at the offensive end, as Indiana is netting 82.4 ppg, while shooting .505 from the floor overall (fourth nationally), including a scorching .476 from three-point range (first nationally). Freshman forward Cody Zeller has made an immediate impact in Bloomington, pacing the team in both scoring (14.2 ppg) and rebounding (6.4 rpg). Zeller leads the Big Ten and ranks fifth nationally in field-goal percentage at an impressive .661 clip. There is plenty of scoring depth to back Zeller up, as Christian Watford (13.5 ppg), Jordan Hulls (12.3 ppg), Victor Oladipo (11.4 ppg) and Will Sheehey (10.7 ppg) have all had their moments, although Sheehey, one of the best sixth-men in the nation, is currently shelved with a leg injury. It was Indiana's long-range acumen that led to the win over Penn State last time out, as the Hoosiers drained 16-of-24 from behind the arc. Hulls was responsible for seven of those long range bombs, en route to a game-high 28 points. Matt Roth hit five three-pointers off the bench and poured in 22 points in the win. Zeller and Watford added 10 points each.