It's ACC/BIG Challenge time. Clemson already pulled a Clemson against Rutgers, which will not stop being hilarious for at least a week. Minnesota looks to avoid an upset against Wake Forest.
Opponent: Wake Forest Demon Deacons
When: 6pm CST
Where: Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Listen: 1500 ESPN
1. Free Throw Shooting
FromTheBarn noted that the Gophers are currently the 5th worst free throw shooting team in the country and are 322nd in the country in opponent FT/FGA. Granting that some of that is statistical noise from a small sample, it's still terribad. Minnesota is an aggressive defensive team, and will give up opportunities to get to the line in the pursuit of steals. Depending on the game, this is a worthwhile trade off. Unfortunately, the Gophers' offense has not done its part to even out free throws. It's not just the 55% team average that's problematic (though that's bad); Minnesota simply is not getting to the foul line enough.
2. No Second Half Letdown
So why are the Gophers so bad at getting and converting free throw opportunities? Look to the second halves. In the last two games of the NIT Season Tip Off, Minnesota played excellent first halves. They moved the ball with purpose, attacked the lane, and were rewarded with open looks and free throws. In the second halves, the Gophers decided to perform an avant garde piece on the necessity of suffering. Ball movement, particularly ball reversals that force defensive rotations, disappeared. If the defense is not forced to rotate, then it will not become unbalanced and shooting fouls will dry up. Pitino has said that he wants his team to be more inside out, and that's admirable, but I'd settle for a team that's willing to follow the system in the second half, whatever the system may be.
3. Transition Opportunities
Wake Forest has a troubled relationship with the basketball. The Demon Deacons turn the ball over on almost 22% of their possessions. As a consequence of their high turnover rate, Wake Forest averages less than a point per possession. Minnesota should be able to exploit Wake's turnover problems to get out in transition and score easy baskets. The Gophers are at their best when they're able to run, and this game provides such an opportunity.
- Minnesota wins 71-66.
- The Gophers make the game close by failing to hit more than 70% of their Free Throws
Presenting without comment but a lot of side eye towards the Demon Deacon Memorable Moments Wikipedia Section
Chet Kushman (1959 Wake Forest graduate) earned the moniker "Lunch Pail Deacon" because of his workmanlike attitude as mascot.