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Illinois basketball preview: Minnesota

Illinois shook up the roster big time after its win against Purdue on Wednesday. “LOL, jk”, they just added manager Ryan Schmidt to the active roster as a depth option:

This is a really minor move, but a cool one, as Groce is giving new guys a chance with the trio of Abrams, Cosby, and Rice injured. Given Illinois’s opponent on Saturday, Minnesota, there’s maybe a small chance he could see a minute of action or so.

Which is to say, Minnesota is pretty bad. The Gophers have started the Big Ten season 1-6, beating only Rutgers (who was widely picked to finish last in the conference). Minny has been in some close games, such as a 74-72 overtime loss to Ohio State or a 77-75 loss to Iowa, but they’ve lost some not close games to the likes of Purdue and Michigan. 

Maybe there’s some bad luck in Minnesota’s record or maybe they’re actually terrible. Stats seem to suggest a little of both, as the Gophers score rank highly in important offensive statistics (23rd in points per game, 40th in field goal percentage) but poorly in defensive stats (173rd in points allowed, 219th in defensive rebounding).

Minnesota is a big contrast from Purdue because they rely on threes fairly heavily to score. They’re shooting 39% for the year from behind the arc, so limiting their production to less than the average will be important for Illinois on Saturday. This means never letting Andre Hollins get an uncontested shot, as he’s made one-third of Minnesota’s threes so far.

This is another must-win game for Illinois, like Purdue. If they play with the fire they had against the Boilermakers it will be a win too.

My prediction: Illinois 74 — Minnesota 62

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