It wasn't always a sight to behold, but Tubby Smith's 2008-09 Gophers got the job done and left the NABC Classic with a 3-0 mark. Lawrence Westbrook deservedly was named tournament MVP.
We some preseason storylines take shape. Devron Bostick looks a bit lost on the floor. Paul Carter, as had been reported, is full of confidence. Ralph Sampson III and Colton Iverson showed spurts of potential. We learned that it's going to be Westbrook who will be responsible for the bulk of Minnesota's offense. After three games, he's the only Gopher averaging double-digits in points (16).
The Gophers struggled some on the glass. They were outrebounded by Georgia State and allowed far too many offensive rebounds aginst Bowling Green. Some of this can be explained by the fact that Damian Johnson and Jonathan Williams were both out of the lineup due to injury. With RSIII and Iverson as the only true bigs, oftentimes the Gophers were playing a four guard lineup. I'm not going to worry too much about rebounding yet.
What concerned me most was the team's pace of play. Ken Pomeroy's tempo free stats indicate the Gophers are averaging 66.3 possessions per 40 minutes, or roughly at about the same pace the Gophers played at last season. For a team like Wisconsin, a methodical pace of play is fine and dandy. But for the Gophers, a team that is still in search of an offensive identity, a slower pace equals fewer chances to score. For comparison, North Carolina, a team that gets up and down, averaged 74 possessions per game last season.
I bring this up simply because it was my hope that with an infllux of athleticism--Bostick, Carter and Joseph speficially--that the Gophers would be able to get out in transition more often. That wasn't the case this weekend. The Gophers rarely applied full-court pressure and even more sparingly applied half-court trapping pressure, a staple of the team's success a season ago. It's my guess that this will change as the newcomers learn to effectively apply full-court pressure.
But the pace of play also should tell us a bit about Coach Smith. On more than one occasion Tubby yanked one of his touted new players for taking an open shot early in a possession. Without an obvious go-to scorer, the Gophers need to take open shots when they have them. I'd like to see Tubby embrace the quick and quality shot when it's available. A quick hook for a Joseph or Carter sends the wrong message, in my opinion. We want them to be aggressive.
Other items to note:
- Blake Hoffarber was cold from the perimeter all weekend. He shot 28 percent (4-14) from beyond the arc. I imagine he'll shoot a higher percentage, but I wonder if the extra distance has his shot off a bit?
- On Saturday night it was Iverson who was in during crunch time. He deserved it he was having a nice game defensively (9 blocks.) On Sunday, it was RSIII who was in down the stretch. RSIII showed increased aggression and awareness on Sunday, a sign that the game at the college level started to slow down for him.
- Hoffarber is the team's leading rebounder after three games with 17. Al Nolen (16) is tied for second. That should demonstrate how well we were rebounding!
- The three new wing players didn't show us much offensively. Joseph shot 20 percent from the floor and didn't drive to the basket playing primarily point guard. Carter shot 22 percent from the floor and was mostly content taking jumpers. Same for Bostick who shot 50 percent in the most limited action of the three.
- Kevin Payton played in just one game and as was the case last year looked extremely hesitant.
For another take on the weekend, Down with Goldy has his thoughts up as well.