Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Gophers/FSU recap, Offense in Review, and Season Outlook

So that's what a game called under the "new rules" looks like, especially when interpreted by Ed Hightower who is literally the only referee I know by name.  52 fouls and 67 free throws later, the Gophers walk away with a very nice 10-point victory over a possibly quality ACC team.  The problem with a game like that, and particularly the second half, is it can be difficult to really judge what happened in the game or who played well, etc. because most of that half seemed to be the teams running down the court and drawing a foul, something pretty easy to do last night.  Even so, I will make a few observations from the game anyway.  For you, dear reader.  For you.

- The press works, even when it doesn't.  What I mean by that is that although I don't really remember the press directly causing many turnovers in the back court, Florida State did turn it over 17 times for the game (27% of their possessions which would rank 350th of 351 if it was as season long number).  This is what happens when you take a team out of its comfort zone.  Although FSU is an uptempo team, it looked like they weren't comfortable with the constant pressure.  I like this.

-  The Gophers took care of the basketball.  They turned it over just six times.  Ignoring everything else, that's 11 more possessions for the Gophers than FSU.  An average team scores/allows just over 1 point per possession in college ball this year, so those 11 possessions could be used to represent the winning margin.  Obviously a ton more goes into a game's final result, but if you were making a power point presentation on the importance of taking care of the ball this game would be a  good place to start.  Just hammer home that point per possession thing and ignore everything else in order to make your point.  It's pretty much what I do every day for work, only with consumer products and what not.  I have a thrilling life.

-  There were still some pretty major issues.  Florida State had the Gophers considerably outsized (holy jesus is Michael Ojo a beast - future NFL tight end) and it showed in that they were able to shoot 55% on two pointers and out rebounded the Gophers 36-29.  These issues are just going to go away, but the more practice this team gets playing that zone and gains game experience I'm hoping these issues can be mitigated a bit.  The two point defense is actually an improvement coming off the Arkansas game and even the Chaminade game (they shot 50% for the game, so I'm guessing they were over 55% until the collapse at the end) and percentage wise the rebounding was about where they've been for the year so I dunno.  Get used to it I guess.  As we saw last night it's a weakness, but not a fatal flaw.

-  It's starting to look like this is the offense we're going to get - mostly free lance with a set sprinkled in once in a while.  There's nothing wrong with that - it's pretty much what Rick Pitino does and plenty of other successful coaches.  If Pitino and co. want to spend their time on conditioning and getting the team to learn the proper rotations on the press and in the zone that's probably the best way to go about it, particularly since if all goes according to plan a whole lot of points will be scored in transition anyway.

Overall I like the philosophies that are being taught and applied.  One philosophy being grabbed on to by statistically savvy coaches is that shots at the rim and three-pointers are the best shots due to high percentage of makes, plus the extra point you get from a 3 that you don't get from that 16-footer.  Basically 2-point jumpers are the worst shot you can take, statistically speaking.  Looking at the Gophers last season, 38.5% of their shots were two point jumpers.  This season that number has fallen to 32.8%.  The Gophers are still slightly above average compared to the national number of 29.3%, but they're a lot better than last season. 

They've mainly eschewed the 2-point jumper by increasing their three-point attempts (Malik Smith probably bumps this up a couple points himself) as their attempts at the rim are actually down this year compared to last.  When you go from guys like Rodney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe, who took 21.5% and 18.8% of the team's shots last year when on the floor to guys like Elliott Eliason as your main post shooter (12.7% of shots) and Joey King and Oto Osenieks who both shoot at the rim fewer than 40% of the time.  All this is a roundabout way of saying the offense has embraced the drive or 3 mentality and I like it.

So that's where we stand going into the abyss.  Seriously the next four games are all home against the dregs of the college basketball world: New Orleans (kenpom rank #350), South Dakota State (#226), Nebraska-Omaha (#195), and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (#326).  It's brutal.  I might even have to write a baseball post what will all the hot Hot Stove action. 

Looking back, other than the second half against Arkansas and the first half against Chaminade (well, first half plus but whatevs) it's been a pretty successful season so far.  Two decent wins and no bad losses.  Some missed opportunities, sure, as the loss to Arkansas cut out another chance at a legit win, but overall I'm pleased with where the Gophers stand.  Barring disaster they'll enter conference play at 11-2 with those two decent wins that have a chance to both be Top 100s.  The RPI stands at 80 right now, which isn't great and it'll go in the wrong direction thanks to this slate of dreck the rest of the month, but it will move back up once conference play starts, it's just up to the Gophers to decide just how high it can go.

With their current resume I'm going to say they'll need to go 10-8 to feel comfortable.  Obviously nothing is guaranteed, but let's say the home games vs. Purdue, Northwestern, Illinois, and Penn State are the only "sure" wins.  That leaves 6-8 for the rest of the games.  It's an awfully tall order, and to be honest with you I don't really think they're cut out to do it.  I think this year is an NIT/CBI/CIT type of year.  Prove me wrong kids, prove me wrong.

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