Michigan Basketball: 5 Keys to Beating Minnesota
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For the first time this season, the No. 5 Michigan Wolverines will enter a game having to bounce back from a loss, but the No. 9 Minnesota Golden Gophers are hoping to rebound from a setback of their own on Thursday night at Williams Arena.
The Wolverines struggled to knock down shots in the early goings of their 56-53 loss on the road against the No. 11 Ohio State Buckeyes, while the Golden Gophers' valiant comeback fell short at Assembly Hall in an 88-81 setback at the hands of the No. 2 Indiana Hoosiers.
Michigan has defeated Minnesota seven of the last eight times the teams have met on the hardwood, including three in a row in Minneapolis, but this is a much more experienced and athletic group of Golden Gophers than the Wolverines have faced in quite some time.
What will Michigan need to do defeat the nationally ranked Minnesota squad on the road? Click ahead to find out!
Michigan's Guards Need to Avoid Over-Dribbling
Trey Burke and the Wolverines will need to create better ball movement against the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
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The Ohio State Buckeyes defended the Michigan Wolverines along the perimeter better than any other team has this season, but sophomore point guard Trey Burke helped out the Scarlet and Grey quite a bit by over-dribbling on several occasions.
The Wolverines are one of the nation's best teams in terms of dishing out assists. Michigan ranks No. 38 in the nation in assists per game (15.8), but in its lone loss of the season, the Wolverines only had eight baskets come directly as a result of passes.
Burke's problems with over-dribbling against the Buckeyes also led to four turnovers, and several of Michigan's 13 giveaways in the loss to Ohio State could be attributed to the same fundamental issue.
Michigan's guards need to do a better job of working the ball around the perimeter with crisp and accurate passes instead of trying to create plays with excessive dribbling if it hopes to defeat the Minnesota Golden Gophers on the road.
Box out Minnesota's Athletic Big Men
Mitch McGary will need to be a factor on the boards against the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
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One of, if not, the biggest reason why the Minnesota Golden Gophers are off to a 15-2 start and boast a 3-1 mark in Big Ten Conference games is their ability to pull down offensive rebounds, which the Michigan Wolverines will have to counter with excellent fundamentals on Thursday night.
The Wolverines struggled to box out some of the Ohio State Buckeyes' athletic bigs, and the Golden Gophers will be able to amplify that weakness if Michigan's big men don't get physical with Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams.
The two combine to pull down 14 rebounds per game and have helped the Golden Gophers grab more offensive boards than any other team in the country. Minnesota is snagging 48 percent of available offensive rebounds, according to ESPN.com.
Freshman big man Mitch McGary needs to use his size advantage to keep Minnesota's athletic bigs at bay, and junior power forward Jordan Morgan will need to be much more of a factor on the glass than he was against Ohio State.
Minnesota's habit of pulling down rebounds has not always extended to the defensive end of the floor, though.
In three of the Golden Gophers' four conference games, opposing teams have hauled in at least 10 offensive rebounds.
Michigan will need to pour in some second-chance points when given the opportunity to topple Minnesota at The Barn.
Good Shot Selection Late in the Game
Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. will need to take better shots late in the game for Michigan to top Minnesota.
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After digging themselves a 21-point hole against the Ohio State Buckeyes, the Michigan Wolverines came all the way back to tie the game up with just under six minutes remaining, but poor shot selection down the stretch doomed the Maize and Blue's resilient effort.
"We got all the way back," Beilein said on his weekly radio show (h/t MLive's Nick Baumgardner). "(But) I wish we'd have had a little bit better shot selection down the stretch."
A long two-pointer from Trey Burke with 5:10 left to play started a run of five straight shots from beyond the arc. Most of those three-balls were jacked up before Michigan ran any offensive sets, were very early in the shot clock and not one of them went down.
In a game like the one Michigan and the Minnesota Golden Gophers will find themselves in Thursday night, every possession is important and no field-goal attempt can be wasted.
Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III need to attack the basket to draw fouls on Minnesota's big men, while Burke and Nik Stauskas should spread the Golden Gophers out by knocking down some perimeter shots.
In Minnesota's two losses this season, the Duke Blue Devils and Indiana Hoosiers knocked down eight treys, so there will definitely be plenty of opportunities to fire up open shots from three-point range.
This matchup between two of the Big Ten's best teams will come down to the wire. The Wolverines cannot afford to simply throw shots at the basket early in the shot clock. It will lead to a second straight loss if those attempts are not falling.
Neutralize the Crowd with an Early Run
The Barn will be one of the toughest venues Michigan travels to this season.
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I listed this exact same key in last week's preview of the Michigan Wolverines' clash with the Ohio State Buckeyes, but the Maize and Blue were unable to execute it and fell behind 29-8 in just over 13 minutes of the opening half.
Michigan cannot afford another start like the one it had on the road against the Buckeyes if the Wolverines hope to walk out of Williams Arena with a victory over the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
The Wolverines need to do a better job of freeing up their shooters early in the contest to get open looks and allow them to regain some confidence after Sunday's dismal 18-of-47 performance in Columbus.
Trey Burke and the rest of Michigan's guards are at their best in transition, so the Wolverines should look to get out and run in the first five minutes of the game in order to take an early lead and make the crowd a non-factor for as long as possible.
Don't Let One Loss Turn into Two
Head coach John Beilein and the Wolverines can't dwell on their recent loss to Ohio State.
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The worst thing the Michigan Wolverines could possibly do on Thursday night is let their recent loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes linger in their minds, derail the confidence they established through the first 16 games of the season and drop a second straight game on the road.
Outside of the first 13 minutes, the Wolverines outplayed the Buckeyes, and for all of the troubles they had early in the game, Trey Burke nearly drained a go-ahead trey with 14 seconds left in the contest.
Now that Michigan has re-established itself on the national stage, there are no moral victories, but given how young these Wolverines are, the resiliency they showed in the face of a 21-point deficit should have been the main takeaway from last Sunday rather than the fact there is a one in the loss column.
Additionally, these are not the same Minnesota Golden Gophers that Michigan has dominated as of late. The Golden Gophers have athletic bigs and a trio of guards in Andre Hollins, Austin Hollins and Joe Coleman that can go toe to toe with the Wolverines' talented backcourt.
Great teams do not let losses affect their psyche, and since there has not been an undefeated team since 1976, there is no reason for the Wolverines to fret over a three-point loss to a Top 15 team on the road.
I expect Michigan to bounce back from its first loss of the season and respond with a top-notch performance against Minnesota.