It doesn't get any easier. Not with the Nebraska game out of the way.
Every single opponent left on No. 25 Ohio State's 2020-21 schedule is ranked within KenPom's top 55, and none of them will be cakewalks, including Minnesota. The Buckeyes (8-2, 2-2) travelled to Minneapolis on Saturday night ahead of their Sunday evening showdown with the Richard Pitino-coached Golden Gophers (9-2, 2-2), a team picked to finish 11th in the preseason conference poll that has picked up several impressive wins over the past two weeks to jump into the Associated Press top-25 poll at No. 21.
|No. 21 Minnesota (9-2, 2-2)||Minneapolis, Minnesota (Williams Arena)||5:30 p.m.||BTN|
They opened the season with five wins against teams outside of KenPom's top 100 – including Boston College and Loyola Marymount – before getting stomped by Illinois in a 92-65 loss. Minnesota, however, recovered quickly to pick up consecutive victories against Saint Louis (7-1), Iowa (9-2) and Michigan State (7-3). It couldn't maintain the win streak for a fourth game, falling by 12 points on the road at Wisconsin on Thursday.
During that late-December period, though, Pitino's squad showed why Ohio State has to take the Golden Gophers seriously, especially given the fact they remain undefeated with 9-0 record at home. Notably, the Buckeyes' only two losses this season have been against Big Ten opposition on the road, so they'll have to end the streak on Sunday to come away victorious.
Three Things To Watch
The Scariest Last Name In Ohio State Hoops
First, it was Tony Carr, the Penn State maestro who gave Ohio State more than it could handle during the 2017-18 season when he went off for 25 points, 28 points and 30 points in a trio of matchups across a month-and-a-half-long period. Memorably, he pulled up halfway between the 3-point line and midcourt to drain a banked-in running triple to give the Nittany Lions an 82-79 upset win in Columbus.
After that stretch, head coach Chris Holtmann would've preferred to never see anybody named Carr again. He said so multiple times.
Enter, Marcus Carr. In 2019-20, his first season at Minnesota after transferring from Pittsburgh, he dropped 35 points in a 13-point win versus Ohio State before going to Columbus three weeks later for a 21-point outing that concluded with him hitting a 3-pointer with 3.3 seconds left that have the Golden Gophers a three-point win.
On Sunday, Carr – a 6-foot-2, 195-pound redshirt junior guard – will reintroduce himself to the Buckeyes. A third-team All-Big Ten selection a year ago, the way he's playing will put him in contention for first-team honors and already has him on NBA radars. He's averaging a team-high 22.7 points per game on 46.2 percent shooting from the floor and 38.6 percent shooting from deep while adding 6.2 assists per game. Getting it done from all over the court, he's hoisting 6.4 triples a game while getting to the line 7.4 times per contest. In short, he's proven a massive challenge to defend. He's coming off a 10-point showing against Wisconsin, but he dropped 32 points versus Saint Louis and 30 point when facing Iowa.
Keeping Carr in check is the No. 1 key to slowing down fast-paced Minnesota. Could Musa Jallow be deployed to guard him? It's possible. The fourth-year junior will be active after missing the Nebraska game due to contact tracing.
Few Turnovers, Many Free Throws
Offensively, these two teams are statistically fairly similar. They both get to the foul line a high rates, knock down free throws efficiently and don't turn it over much.
Minnesota has the 29th-best adjusted offensive efficiency largely because it has a 45.8 percent free-throw rate (10th-best nationally) while making 76.1 percent of its free throws (32nd-best nationally) and turning it over just 15.3 percent of the time (20th-best nationally). A lot of that success, unsurprisingly, goes back to Carr, who's the primary ball-handler and is the best on his team at getting to the line.
Liam Robbins, Gabe Kalscheur and Both Gach have all gotten to the line their fair share of time, too, though. Robbins, a 7-foot, 235-pound transfer from Drake is averaging 13 points and seven rebounds per game, adding 29 blocks across 11 games. He can extend to the 3-point line – where he's 7-of-21 – but does most of his work inside the arc. He's shot 49 percent from the field and is hitting 71.2 percent of his more than five free-throw attempts a game. Kalscheur, a 6-foot-4, 200-pound guard, is 38-of-42 from the foul line this year, and Gach – a 6-foot-6, 185-pound guard – is 30-for-36.
Who Knocks Down Shots?
Another similarity between the Buckeyes and Golden Gophers? Neither is particularly deadly from behind the arc.
Among Big Ten teams, Ohio State is ranked 12th in 3-point percentage (31.8) while Minnesota is last (30.1). If one of these two teams somehow gets hot from behind the arc on Sunday.
The Minnesota shooters to know are Carr (of course), Brandon Johnson – a 6-foot-8, 220-pound forward who transferred from Western Michigan – who has hit 11-of-25 3s and Gach, who's shooting 35.3 percent from outside. On the Ohio State side, Duane Washington Jr. needs to get things going from deep to avoid another lackluster 3-point outing.
Prediction: Ohio State 78, Minnesota 75