The Golden Gophers have turned some heads this season. Richard Pitino has gone from the hot seat to the driver seat as his team has really played better than many would’ve anticipated. Minnesota is looking to make their first NCAA Tournament since 2013.
Defense wins games. A huge factor for Minnesota’s success on defense has been their size and length down low. The Golden Gophers are first in the nation in blocks averaging almost seven blocks per contest. Much of the credit is due to 6-foot-10 junior forward Reggie Lynch who transferred from Illinois State and is averaging 3.4 blocks per game. Minnesota also ranks 13th in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency, 9th in defensive three-point shooting, and 11th in defensive effective field goal percentage according to KenPom.
Minnesota’s reliance on defense will allow them to hang around with any opponent which could make them dangerous if they start to get hot on the offensive side of the ball. Two players that come to mind are junior guard Nate Mason and freshman forward Amir Coffey. These two lead the team averaging 15 and 12 points respectively this season and have taken over games when needed.
Although Coffey and Mason are very solid scoring the ball, Minnesota struggles as a team on the offensive end. The team is 252th in the nation in effective field goal percentage and 173th in three-point percentage over the course of the year. In a loss at Penn State in January, Minnesota was held to 50 points on the night while shooting 27% from the three point line and 39% overall from the field.
While Minnesota has been consistent on defense, there lack of skill on offense has been their achilles’ heel all season. Mason and Coffey are great players but other players are going to have to step up in order Rich Pitino’s team to make a run in the Big Dance.
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