Thursday, October 19, 2017

Hi DWG

http://bit.ly/2gNUHmr


Nathan Wickman

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

We Did It!!

Eleven Big Tens wins, a year after 8 total wins, is nothing short of remarkable.  Reggie Lynch, Akeem Springs (RIP), and Amir Coffey had huge impacts, but the coach and returning players deserve a considerable amount of credit as well.  The teams defensive efficiency this year was the best of the Pitino era (holy shit he's been here 4 years already), and by a considerable margin.  Yes, it helps to have a monster of a shot blocker all of a sudden, but he's only on the court like 18 minutes a game or something I didn't look up.  The three point defense has been great, both defending and forcing teams off that shot, and the two point defense is the best in the last four years, and the assist percentage allowed his the lowest as well, suggesting the Gophers are forcing teams to shoot long 2s off of little ball movement - that's good!  I'm not sure exactly how much that's happening, but I know the pick and roll defense has improved tremendously since the beginning of the year (as long as the point guard's name doesn't rhyme with Thimble).  Great job by the team, the coach, the new guys, and all.  This team definitely wins with defense.

Which is good, because the best thing you can say about the offense is that it is better than last year when it was abysmal.  The good news is that it is better than all the Tubby years except one, so if you think it looks better it does - it's just the second worse Pitino year.  That said, the improvement from last year is remarkable.  This year seven players (Mason, Murphy, Coffey, McBrayer, Springs, Lynch, and Curry) had an offensive rating over 100 (kenpom).  Last season that number was just three (Mason, King, Buggs).  Basically every offensive metric around has the team better this year than last year, but still meh.  One metric stands out to me though - assist %.

This year the team assists on 57% of their baskets, good enough for 66th in the country.  That number has always been high - under Pitino, under Tubby, even under Monson they were usually top 100.  Last season, however, they assisted on just 52% of made baskets, ranking them 167 - their worst mark since kenpom came into existence.  I know a 5% change may not seem like much, but it is.  The second worst Gopher ranking came under Jim Molinari.  It doesn't necessarily mean an unselfish team, although this one is, but it means the ball is moving, the offense is humming, and there's a solid plan in place.  That seems to be the biggest difference offensively this year compared to last.  The players know what to do at all times (maybe not having Buggs helps here?).  Pick and roll has gotten better, they're running some creative sets, and the team is looking to run whenever it can.  Good stuff.

But enough about the Gophers.  Nobody cares.  Let's talk about their opponent tomorrow, the 12th seeded Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders.  Hey did you know they beat Michigan State last year as a 15 seed?  I had no idea, nobody mentions it constantly on TV or anything.  Did you also know they got blown out by 25 the next game against Syracuse?  Did you also know they only have two of their top five scorers back?  Now, I know one of them is Giddy Potts, and admittedly that's fun to say, and they went 30-4 this year which is really good, but come on now.

I know they're a good team.  They have wins over UNC-Wilmington, Vanderbilt, and Ole Miss this year.  And only losing four times is always good, but those losses were to three bad teams and VCU.  They haven't played a team as good as the Gophers the entire season and have only played one Top 100 team since Christmas.  Their biggest strengths are they don't turn the ball over and they don't get their shot blocked.  Let's see what happens when they play a pressure defense from the Big Ten and face Reggie Lynch.  And, oh yeah, they don't draw fouls even against that level of competition - Lynch might have 15 blocked shots.  I get it.  They're a good team who deserve to be here.  But so are the Gophers.  The line opened with the Gophers a 3 point favorite, now they're a one point underdog with something like 94% of the money on MTSU, and everyone I see on TV, everyone, is picking the Blue Raiders.  That always works out, right?

Minnesota 74, MTSU 60.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

And the Season Begins Tonight (not technically)

Well here we go.  Time to see how the screw this up, but the path to the tournament really begins tonight.  It would have been awfully nice to take a game at Michigan State or Wisconsin at home or not lose to god damn Penn State, but here we are.  Looking at the wins and losses and computer numbers (RPI #16 , SoS #7), this team is right in line for a tournament bid.  All they need is a mere 6 more victories in their last 11 games.  That's it.  6-5.  That's 21 wins overall and a 9-9 conference record.  With everything else, that's all it'll take.

Even if they lose some terrible games like to Rutgers or something, if they're at 9 wins that'll mean they picked up another good win somewhere to balance it out.  Or if they pick up absolutely no more good wins, if they get 6 more victories it'll mean there aren't any crappy losses to drag them down.  Six more wins.  6 wins out of eleven games.  That's it.  Do it.

Looking at the Final eleven games, kenpom.com has the Gophers favored to win in 7 of them.  They also predict a one point loss tonight at Ohio State.  And a two point loss next month at Maryland.  The road game at Wisconsin to close out the regular season is the only game they're a significant underdog in, and we better hope to god they don't need it.

Oh, and guess how many home games this team has remaining?  Six.  Maryland, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Penn State, and Nebraska.  Every single one of those games is 100% winnable.  That would be enough.  I've said before I really wish Penn State and Nebraska home games were earlier in the season so they'd have some breathing room down the stretch, but I called and they wouldn't let me change the schedule so here we are.  Grab a "good" win or two and it won't matter, but those games need to be victories.

The road games:  Ohio State, Illinois, Rutgers, Maryland, and Wisconsin.  I actually started involuntarily shaking typing that since as a Gopher fan I'm conditioned to break down weeping whenever I have to discuss them going on the road, but I'm not letting them off the hook this year.  They already beat two good teams in Purdue and Northwestern away from Williams, so they can handle any of these non-Badger teams (Penn State meltdown aside).

It doesn't get any simpler than that.  The blueprint is there.  It's easy.  It's right in front of them. I don't feel like getting deep into what's good and what's bad with this team, or what's going on with Jordan Murphy's sudden disappearance or Nate Mason's shot or the overall offensive problems or great defense or why Reggie Lynch doesn't get the ball more. I just want 6 wins.  Anything less than 6 wins is a complete and utter failure at this point.  Don't break my heart.  Again.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Path to the Tournament

I can't believe I'm saying this, but the Gophers have a clear, and relatively simple, to an NCAA bid at this point.  I know, I know.  It's the Gophers, nothing is too dreadful to be out of their reach.  But at 14-2, with (according to ESPN) the #5 RPI and #9 strength of schedule the computer numbers are rock solid.  The SoS won't change much since it's all Big Ten play from here, and the RPI will only change dramatically if they go into freefall, which torpedo their chances anyway.  Those are great, great numbers.  The only other teams top 10 in both metrics are Villanova, Florida, and Kentucky.  Whoever put this schedule did a great job, but the team had to come through and they certainly have to this point.

14-2.  Who would have guessed.  And of the fourteen wins they have one over a Top 25 team (Arkansas), three more over Top 50 teams (Purdue, UT-Arlington, Vandy), and three more over Top 100 teams (Northwestern, Arkansas State, Lafayette).  Since the two losses are both against top 50 teams, things look pretty good.  Some of those RPIs will probably shift a bucket here and there, but make no mistake right now, this is a bullet proof resume.

Unfortunately right now only means a good start, and there is a whole big rest of the season left.  I believe the Gophers need 9 conference wins at this point to guarantee a bid.  Eight might do it as well with the computer numbers, but nine would be solid lead pipe lock status.  So let's see how we get there, shall we?

Looking at kenpom, since spreads tend to be pretty close to his estimates or at least within a few points, the Gophers will be favored in 3 games by double digits.  Call these the gimmies:  home vs. Iowa, home vs. Penn State, and home vs. Nebraska.  Those games are far later in the season than I'd like since I'd prefer to bang them out now rather than sweat them when they might become must wins, but those are three easy games.

There are seven more games (7!!!) they should be favored in:  vs. Ohio State, @Penn State, vs. Maryland, @Illinois, @Rutgers, vs. Indiana, and vs. Michigan.  If they take care of the three gimmies, and man, I really do wish those games weren't at the tail end of the season, they only have to go 4-3 in this group.  4-3!

The remaining games are the two vs. Wisconsin, @ Michigan State, @ Maryland, and @ Ohio State and the Gophers have shown they can win on the road already this year, so none of those are out of the realm of possibility.

Let's look at this in even a simpler way.  Kenpom also gives a % chance of victory.  Even if the Gophers only win the games he pegs them at 70% or greater, that still gets them to 8 conference wins, and leaves nine other games to pick up one win - just one!

There are plenty of red flags if you dig into their advanced stats but I am choosing to ignore that now because they have a really, really simple path to make the tournament and they are looking really, really good and are really, really fun.  In case you can't tell, yes, I've bought in.  That never ends well.  Hold on to your butts.