|Pos.||Minnesota Golden Gophers||Pnt/Gm||Pnt/Gm||Penn State||Pos.|
|PG||Deandre Mathieu||11.8||15.6||Tim Frazier||PG|
|G||Andre Hollins||14.6||17.6||D.J. Newbill||G|
|G||Austin Hollins||11.6||9.3||Brandon Taylor||F|
|F||Joey King||6.2||9.0||Ross Travis||F|
|F||Maurice Walker||7.4||6.7||Donovan Jack||F|
|Bench||Malik Smith||8.7||2.9||Graham Woodward
|Bench||Elliott Eliason||5.7||2.6||Geno Thorpe
|Bench||Daquein McNeil||1.6||5.7||Allen Roberts||Bench|
The Gophers have four players who will be honored for Senior Day: Oto Osenieks, Maverick Ahanmisi, Malik Smith and Austin Hollins. I want to take some time to recognize each of them. If you are so moved, leave your favorite memory in the comments.
As reported earlier, Oto Osenieks will be honored at senior night and has given up playing basketball. Oto is only a junior, but is scheduled to graduate in May. The forward from Latvia was a much better player this year. Osenieks doubled his win share from last season, improved in every shooting category, and reduced his turnovers. He also threw down several impressive dunks over the season. Hopefully, Oto's rehab is as quick and painless as possible.
Maverick Ahanmisi was lost in the shuffle of the depth chart this year. He provided spot minutes for most of the Big Ten season and morphed to a degree into a spot up shooter. Ahanmisi never had the most talent on the team, however, everyone around the team has emphasized his hard work and dedication. He also had a nice 3pt game and played great minutes in the win over Wisconsin.
Malik Smith only played with the Gophers for one year. A transfer from FIU who followed Pitino, Smith was recruited to shoot 3s and he did not disappoint. Smith's chucker mentality led to some incredible shooting performances, including an 8-12 performance in a losing effort against Nebraska. While he is finishing the year in a bit of a slump, Smith is shooting at his career pace. If he can get hot heading into the final stretch of the season the Gophers will have a dangerous piece on the wing.
Spouting superlatives about Austin Hollins becomes difficult if, like me, you have a limited vocabulary of words meaning awesome. Hollins led the team in minutes played, defended the opponent's best player every night, was asked to be a consistent scorer and passer, and for a long period of this season was Minnesota's best rebounder. It is up in the air whether he has the talent to play at the next level, but the Gophers would have been lost without him this year. Hollins has already reached the 1000 point club and will likely cross the 1200 point club tonight. In addition, he also did this:
Congratulations to all players being honored tonight. The entire Daily Gopher community wishes you continued success with whatever you pursue.
Efficiency Stats (national rank in parenthesis if significant)
|Off Reb %||33.2%||29.5%|
|Def Reb %||71.1%||73.5%|
Minnesota is a better offensive team and the teams are about equally bad on defense. KenPom puts this game as a win for the Gophers 70% of the time with an expected final score of 72-67. I'm cool with that outcome.
Keys to a Gopher Win
Contain PSU backcourt - Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill should immediately jump out from this list. The two both have high usage rate (25.4 and 26.6 respectively). Usage rate is an estimate of the number of possessions that are used by a player. Players with high usage rates touch the ball a lot, shoot the ball a lot, and are the catalysts for an offense when they are on the floor. Moreover they are going to be the primary threats to score on any given possession. Ross Travis a decent piece, but if he is carrying the offense the Gophers will be in good shape.
No Empty Possessions -Turnovers are still an issue for the Gophers. Penn State doesn't force a lot of them, so the Gophers cannot gift PSU possessions. There is a talent distinction between the two teams, but ask Ohio State how fun it is to let the Nittany Lions hang around. The Gophers must be efficient on the offensive end of the floor. This means that Deandre Mathieu will have to play smart and aggressive. The Gophers will have to maintain good spacing on the offensive end and look for good shots. None of this is mind blowing, but at the end of the season it's a little sad that it even has to be brought up.
Recognize the moment-The Gophers are without question the better team. They are playing at home with the opportunity to go to the NCAA Tournament, an outcome that was unexpected at the beginning of the season. In addition, today is Senior Day. Good teams win these games. Sometimes the key to a game isn't a specific set or rotation.