I didn't get to see much of the tournament this weekend. The first two games happened while I was at work, and the third I missed because on account of being at a bar that didn't have the game on because grrr football, so most of these impressions are coming from flashes of the first two games and looking at box scores and advanced metrics. Let's just say that coming out of there 1-2 with the only win over lowly Missouri State in a game they almost blew is not an encouraging sign for this season. Ugh.
1. The Rebounding. Oh god, the rebounding. We were pretty well tipped off when Southwest Minnesota State or whoever outrebounded the Gophers in their exhibition game, but man oh man it is not pretty. They were outrebounded in all three games, and their rebound rates on both sides of the ball are north of the top 225 in NCAA, and they have yet to play a real good opponent. This is a really, really bad thing. It's not surprising with the personnel they have, but might be worse than I thought. Jordan Murphy's defensive rebounding rate is the only one on the entire roster to crack the Top 500 of all NCAA players.
2. I'm kinda worried Kevin Dorsey can't shoot. This can be worked around because he is so, so, so good at attacking the rim, but I'm a little worried here. I know it's easy to point at 2-15 and yell about how he can't hit the broadside of a rim, and that's stupid because sample size and all that, but it's more how he missed. I'm pretty sure I saw at least one airball, and a couple more that were just, yuck. Hopefully this gets a little better as the year and career go on, because I love the way he goes to the rim, and a broken jumper makes that more difficult.
3. Speaking of which, this offense is way too 3-point dependent. Over 40% of their attempts so far this year are from three, and although that kind of offense can work it's a dramatic uptick from the 33% last year. Not to mention last year they could actually shoot, hitting almost 38% compared to 34% this year. Nate Mason will be better than his 29% so far and Dorsey likely isn't a sub 20% shooter, but Carlos Morris, Joey King, and Charles Buggs aren't going to keep hitting at this high of a percentage either. Plus, again, the caliber of competition so far says they shouldn't have to depend on the 3, and should instead be going to the rim. Unless something changes this is only going to get worse once conference play starts, which means they'll probably get one cool awesome upset win when everyone is hot, but a whole lot of losses.
4. Terrible 3-point defense. Again. The Gophers have always struggled defending the three for whatever reason and so far are again. Looking back the last time they ranked in the top 100 in the country against the three was 2008. 2008! Last year they ranked 287th, this year so far 275th. That is bad. The one positive I see is that they're actually limiting the number of threes opponents shoot for the first time under Pitino, with opposing teams taking just 32% of their attempts from three, a number that was over 35% in both of his first two years and every Tubby year, so maybe that's a positive trend. Or maybe teams are just attacking a gooey soft defense. Too soon to tell, but they are at least playing pretty good two-point defense.
5. Bakary Konate is better than I expected. Now, this is still a very, very fragile compliment given that he is indeed still raw and is kind of a foul machine, but I was impressed by two things. I saw a legit jump hook. Not a raw goofy one like if you ask a high school wrestler to shoot one, but a real, good looking shot. I remember being so stunned by it that I don't even remember if it went in. Also, his free throws are gorgeous. Great form, nice high arc, just perfect. He's only 5-9 this year but whatever, that's fine. He's further along than I expected him to be. The Gophers are still screwed for this year, but I am pleasantly intrigued. His rim protection numbers also look good with a Top 100 block rate in the country right now, but I don't recall seeing any blocks of his so I won't comment further.
6. Carlos Morris may yet be the death of me. Every once in a while Morris does something smart and in control. And I do mostly love him on the defensive end because he balances out his lapses and mistakes by getting a lot of steals. However, "Morris floater in the lane" might be my least favorite sentence ever because he just does not have that shot. I knew this year would be nuts because he was going to be asked to be a big part of the offense. I guess I had hoped we'd see a different Morris, and I suppose if he continues to hit threes at a 43% clip you can deal with a lot of mistakes. Also he's taking the ball to the rim more than last year, so that's good too. Look at me, I'm talking myself into Carlos Morris! This is gonna be a great year!
7. This is a young team, and a young coach. Duh, of course, but it's good to keep reminding myself that when Pitino switches up defense to a half court trap for no good reason and the defense gets torched after regular old man to man was doing a good job against Missouri State. With so many young players and youngish guys playing heavy minutes for the first time and the variety of defenses Pitino likes to run it's no wonder at times the defense looks like a rec league team of 5th graders running around. This is a year for patience and waiting, which is kind of frustrating considering it's Year 3 of the Pitino era, but at the same time the way the roster was constructed you could see this year looming, and unless he hit on a huge recruiting class this year was pretty much earmarked as rough. Something good better happen next year though, because he's got that big time class.
8. Nate Mason is going to be a star. He played pretty crappy in the tournament overall and so far is showing a disturbing propensity to foul so far this year, but much like Carlos Morris passes the eye test for reckless crazy, Mason passes the eye test for totally under control future star.
And I could only come up with eight things and I kind mailed in the last one so I guess that's as good as you're gonna get. Up next is Omaha, a terrible team the Gophers ought to beat by double digits. Their only win this season against a D-1 team was in overtime against a UMKC team the Gophers beat by 18, and one of their losses was to Santa Barbara, their only win so far this year. They did hang with Colorado and lost by just five, so maybe they aren't completely terrible, but they shoot 23.6% from three, so maybe they are. The most worrisome thing is so far this year they've given up a lot of three pointers, but done a good job and teams are hitting a super low percentage, so that's bad considering the Gophers love to shoot threes and are horrible at it.
Should be fun.