NIT Preview: Three Keys for Minnesota Against Florida StatePosted by Brendan Brody on April 1st, 2014
Minnesota has made the most out of its experience in the NIT, as the Gophers have made it to New York City to take on Florida State in the semifinals of the event this evening. This is a rematch of an earlier meeting in December’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge, when Richard Pitino’s team defeated the Seminoles 71-61 at Williams Arena. Despite a lack of prestige and eyeballs on this game, Minnesota is the only Big Ten team still playing basketball other than Wisconsin. In order to advance to Thursday night’s championship game, here are three things for Minnesota to concentrate on to beat FSU again.
- Create turnovers: Florida State turns the ball over slightly less often than Indiana, and anyone who watched any Big Ten basketball this season knows what that means. The Seminoles turn the ball over on over 21 percent of their possessions, and out of the 92 ACC players who played over 40 percent of their team’s available minutes, Devin Bookert and Ian Miller rank fourth and fifth from the bottom. Miller also uses 25.6 percent of the team’s possessions, so taking advantage of his propensity to give the ball away is a must. Minnesota needs to remain aggressive on the perimeter, forcing turnovers instead of letting the guards — both of whom shoot over 40 percent from deep — get hot from the outside.
- Get quality games from Joey King and Charles Buggs: Elliott Eliason is doubtful after an ankle injury suffered in practice, leaving King and Buggs as Maurice Walker’s only support down low against a team that features 7’1″ Michael Ojo and 7’3″ Boris Bojanovsky. Walker has the size and strength to battle with the two behemoths, but he’ll need some help so as to not wear down. King and Buggs both play more of a stretch forward role, but they’ll need to have good nights on the defensive boards to give the Gophers a chance. FSU retrieves 34.5 percent of their misses, and without Eliason’s size down low, someone will have to help Walker out.
- Andre Hollins needs to show up: It’s hard to criticize someone for coming back too soon from an injury, and Hollins was, at the time, Minnesota’s best player who felt the team’s run into the NCAA Tournament depended on his presence. In retrospect, however, he probably should have taken a couple of extra games to get everything healed completely. Now that his ankle seems to be somewhat back to normal, it seems that his confidence has faltered. Hollins looked to be visibly favoring the ankle in his first couple of games back, but now with better fluidity of motion, he is actually playing worse. He’s averaging a mere 7.7 PPG on 2-of-17 three-point shooting in the first three rounds of the NIT. If he can get things back in sync and going offensively, then Austin Hollins and Deandre Mathieu won’t feel quite as much of the burden of carrying the offense.