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Minnesota Basketball Three Pointers: Previewing Gopher Hoops Hosting North Dakota

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Last game was against a fun and uniquely nicknamed team, the Catamounts of Western Carolina.  Up next we have a nameless program.

1 - Plenty of Local Products...on the other team

Kinda funny that we are facing a team with six players from Minnesota on their roster.  How many does Minnesota have?  Two, including Darin Haugh.

North Dakota has two starters with local ties and a third Minnesotan who comes off the bench for significant minutes.  Quinton Hooker (who coincidentally I knew he and his family when he was a kid) is a sophomore, starting point guard who took Park Center to the state championship game a couple years ago.  Chad Calcaterra starts at F/C for the ? and is from Cloquet.  Calcaterra was recruited by the Gophers but ultimately chose to play for Tim Miles at Colorado State before eventually transferring to UND.  Junior, Estan Tyler comes off the bench and played his high school ball at St. Paul Johnson before heading to U Missouri-Kansas City and then transferring to North Dakota.

It is always interesting to see local kids on mid-majors who come to Williams Arena, some feeling they have something to prove to the big school who didn't want them in maroon and gold.

2 - Andre Hollins Getting Back Into Form

Hollins was named Big Ten Player of the Week after a couple nice games last week against Western Carolina (15 pts, 3 assists) and Wake Forest (27 pts, 7 reb). After a couple of single-digit scoring nights, Hollins appears to be getting his scoring stroke back.

3 - Gopher Defense Getting Better

Last year's Gopher defense was pretty good but had room for improvement.  This year's defense appears to be much better and is still improving.  Currently ranked 5th in Forced Turnover % and 27th in defensive efficiency.  These are good numbers and not just because we are playing weak opponents.  Looking back, comparing some of our non-conference games to similar non-conference foes on this year's schedule you will see a pattern of defensive improvement in wins, in losses, against good teams and against weak teams.

Opponent (KenPom Rank) Result Def Eff TO% Def eFG%
2013 Syracuse (16) Loss 115.4 15.4 47.3
2014 Louisville (4) Loss 103.4 19.1 52.0
2013 Arkansas (52) Loss 121.3 20.9 61.8
2014 St. Johns (29) Loss 90.8 23.4 41.4
2013 Florida State (41) Win 95.4 26.6 48.8
2014 Georgia (47) Win 94.7 27.5 49.0
2013 Coastal Carolina (213) Win 101.3 28.1 60.2
2014 Western Carolina (221) Win 92.5 34.7 53.6

Forcing more turnovers and holding teams to a lower point per possession in all cases above.  These are cherry-picked examples but the games chosen were not to show the best defensive numbers possible but to try and show improved numbers against similarly quality opponents.  Pitino's pressure defense is coming into focus for this program and I suspect we will see defense lead the way again tonight.

Efficiency Stats (national rank in parenthesis if significant)

Minnesota UND
Off PPP 105.4 94.4(289)
Def PPP 91.4 (27) 105.3 (306)
Off TO% 20.3% 17.5%
Def TO% 27.5% (5) 20.2%
Off Reb % 29.4% 25.8%
Def Reb % 68.1% 72.5%

An additional preview provided by William Benson in the FanPosts.  Worth checking it out.