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Michigan Wolverines Basketball: Minnesota Preview

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Jordan Murphy had 27 points against Purdue Friday night. (USA Today Sports Images)

To get to its third straight Big Ten Tournament championship game, all Michigan will have to do is defeat Minnesota for the third time this season.

After being inconsistent in the regular season, Minnesota has ripped off two straight victories in the Big Ten Tournament, defeating Penn State 77-72 in OT and Purdue 75-73.

“Thank god we just played them a couple weeks ago,” Michigan head coach John Beilein said. “So talented….You beat those two teams? Those are two really good teams. That’s the great thing about these tournaments. People can all of the sudden just play well and they’ve been a good team all year long.

“They’ve had some great wins. We’re going to have to play just like we did [against Iowa] if not better to beat them.”

The Golden Gophers offense has struggled to shoot the season as they have an effective field goal percentage of 48.5, which is 276th in the country. From three-point range, Minnesota is shooting only 32.5 percent, which is 266th in the nation and Minnesota’s ratio of three-pointers attempted to field goals attempted is the 346th lowest in the country. Minnesota shoots poorly from three and doesn’t attempt many from three either.

Where the Golden Gophers do their damage is from the free throw line. Minnesota has the ninth-highest free throw attempts to field goal attempts ratio in college basketball and 23.2 percent of its points come from the free throw line, which is 10th highest in the country.

In Michigan’s two victories over Minnesota in the regular season, the Wolverines held the Golden Gophers to 57 and 60 points. In those games, Michigan’s offense was inconsistent. Minnesota’s defense is the 36th best defense in college basketball, according to Kenpom.

Opponents have an effective field goal percentage of 48.8, which is the 88th lowest in the country. Minnesota doesn’t force many turnovers, but where its defense is at its best is limiting three-point attempts.

Minnesota is led by forward Jordan Murphy who is averaging a double-double at 14.9 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. He is one of the best rebounders in the nation, with a defensive rebounding percentage of 28.7, which is the 12th best in the country, and an offensive rebounding percentage of 12.2, which is 98th best. One of his best ways to score is by getting to the free throw line as he has a free throw rate of 69.6, which is the 16th best in college basketball.

Junior point guard Amir Coffey is Minnesota’s leading scorer at 16.4 points per game this season, while also adding 3.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. Coffey rarely leaves the court for the Gophers as he is playing in 87.2 percent of the available minutes. Like his teammate Murphy, he is also skilled at getting the free throw line with a free throw rate of 50.5, which is 133rd in the country. Michigan can’t get into foul trouble trying to defend these two players.

Along with Murphy, Minnesota’s frontcourt is also anchored by freshman center Daniel Oturu, who is scoring 10.9 points per game and adding 7.3 rebounds per game. He is great on the offensive glass where he has the 73rd best offensive rebounding percentage in the country at 12.6.

Michigan will have to pay attention to freshman guard Gabe Kalscheur from three-point range. He is Minnesota’s best shooter from long-range as he is shooting 41.8 percent from three, which is the 127th best mark in college basketball. He has the highest effective field goal percentage on the team at 56.3 percent.

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