FORT WAYNE – For the first time since Feb. 19, 2000, two top 10 men’s basketball teams will square off in Bloomington.
No. 5 Indiana plays No. 8 Minnesota in one of the marquee games of the weekend at noon today in Assembly Hall.
It’s a big game for us, and it’s a big game for them, Indiana junior guard Victor Oladipo said. It’s two top 10 teams, and it’s in the Big Ten. It doesn’t get any more high level than that.
The Hoosiers (14-1, 2-0) have won five straight, including two Big Ten road games. The Gophers (15-1) have won 11 in a row. Minnesota improved to 3-0 in the Big Ten after an 84-67 victory at No. 12 Illinois on Wednesday.
When we are healthy, and when we have all the pieces, we feel more competitive, Minnesota coach Tubby Smith said. We feel like we can compete with anyone. That’s where we are at this stage.
We feel pretty good about where we are and what we are capable of doing.
These are two of the top-scoring teams in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers are first in the conference, averaging 87 points. Minnesota is third, averaging 76 points.
The teams also rank at the top of the Big Ten in rebounding margin. The Hoosiers are first (plus-11.7). The Gophers are second (plus-10.6).
If you don’t meet them first, they are going to put you out of bounds, Indiana coach Tom Crean said. They are very, very aggressive. It is a complete fistfight when the shot goes up when they are playing, and we have to be the same way.
Minnesota forward Trevor Mbakwe is second in the Big Ten in rebounding, averaging 7.93. Indiana sophomore forward Cody Zeller is third, averaging 7.86.
He has always been a tough-minded, very physical player, Crean said of Mbakwe, who missed most of last season after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee. And now he’s just that much more so after the year off.
Minnesota has four players averaging double figures in scoring. Sophomore guard Andre Hollins leads the way, averaging 13.7 points.
Making the conversion from a real scoring guard to a point guard was his biggest challenge last year, and he was a freshman playing in the Big Ten, Smith said. He really came on after he got healthy last year at the end of the year and played well. This year, he is comfortable with our system. He’s gotten stronger. He’s gotten better.
He can really score. Some people have point guards that are responsible for just distrusting the ball, but he’s probably one of our better outside shooters.
The Gophers’ only loss came to Duke on Nov. 22.
It’s going to be one of the toughest games we’ve had all year, Zeller said. Obviously, with the teams they’ve beat already they’ve already proved themselves, they’re a very tough team.