Today we’re previewing Dupree McBrayer, who looks to at least begin the season in the starting lineup at the two-spot. Initially a favorite punching bag due to his inconsistent and often frustrating performances, McBrayer finished strong last year to cement his status as one of the team’s key scoring cogs.
McBrayer looks like a string bean on the court, but responding to Pitino’s challenge for him to “live in the weight room”, McBrayer is up to 190 lbs., up from 175 when he first came to campus. At 6-5, he’s got more length than you realize and it’s an underrated dunker. While he’s technically a “shooting” guard, he can easily switch into a small forward role and not lose much in terms of size. Pitino estimates he’s added six pounds of muscle in the offseason. You know what that means? More of this:
REVIEW OF 2016-2017
It may not have looked like it last year, considering how low his lows were, but when all was said and done, McBrayer probably made the biggest year-to-year jump of anyone on the team. No, seriously.
He had a great start to the season. Scoring in double figures in 13 of the first 15 games, he looked like he’d figured things out big time in his sophomore season. And then. Wow. It wasn’t pretty. He went on a slide that saw him bottom out with just two points on a couple free throws against Indiana. He was benched pretty quickly into the swoon, which didn’t help his confidence (though it did lead to Akeem Springs getting more minutes, which was hardly a bad thing). But Dupree had stopped shooting and lost the aggressiveness that gave him an edge on the court. Really, it looked like all the momentum he’d gained was totally gone, which caused some consternation. However, he regained his confidence shortly thereafter, started shooting the three and attacked the basket. He averaged a cool 13.6 points in the final eight games and was a key sixth man down the stretch.
Overall, though, he made huge strides. He jumped to 11 ppg from 6 in his freshman year. He improved his FG% from 33% to 46%. And, most impressively, he transformed into a legitimate three-point shooter, hitting 42% of his attempts to lead the team.
OUTLOOK FOR 2017-2018
McBrayer is a junior now, a veritable veteran, and should be one of the better scorers on the team. Assuming the final push last season wasn’t a mirage, the Gophers will look to him to be one of the bigger deep threats on the team. But with that expectation comes a fair amount of pressure to improve his consistency. The Gophers are (should be?) deep in the backcourt, so it’s not like he’s a de facto starting guard. Isaiah Washington and Jamir Harris will be chomping at the bit to prove themselves, which increases the onus on McBrayer to perform.
Of course, this will be his third year in Pitino’s system, and we all saw the leap Nate Mason took in his junior season last year. The expectation this year is for McBrayer to be an offensive rock, a guy who can hold his own with the ball and a reliable scoring threat — one that won’t disappear for several games at a time.
For the ups and downs of last season, McBrayer showed growth where he needed to most: his shot. Akeem Springs leaves a gaping hole in the backcourt, and McBrayer is in great position to provide more than enough to replace him. Let’s not forget that he averaged 11 points per game last year, and that’s including the lull during conference play. His end-of-year run was awesome to see, and he showed substantial growth across the board, which bodes well for this season. His versatility makes him a weapon and several places on the court, and his experience in Pitino’s system could make him one of the more potent weapons on this year’s squad.