Welcome to our 2017 season recaps for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Unfortunately, Minnesota’s first round exit means that this series has been moved up ahead of its expected plan to be run in mid April. We are going to look at each position group starting at point guard.
Who played minutes?
Point guard depth was nonexistent, a result of the off-season transfer of Kevin Dorsey and Jarvis Johnson not being cleared to play. Dupree McBrayer saw minutes to spell Mason, but calling him a point guard would be a stretch.
At the beginning of the season there were expectations that Nate Mason would make a jump from his sophomore to junior season, but they were tempered by his end of year suspension. One All Big Ten First Team season later and the starting point guard position will be a major position of strength next year. Mason became the first Gopher since Vincent Grier to be named First Team All Big Ten, and he justifiably earned that distinction quibbles from Michigan fans aside.
Nate Mason Per 100 Possessions
Nate Mason Statistical Profile
Since Nate Mason was the only player to see actual point guard minutes, we only have one player’s statistics to look at. For every single recap, we will have two tables. The first is per 100 possessions, which I prefer to raw aggregates. Per 100 Possessions estimate the number of possessions a player was on the court and then divides by 100.
The second table is the statistical breakdown. Our major takeaway from this table for Mason is his usage rate, which indicates that he finished almost 25% of the possessions for which he was on the floor. When Mason was playing well, his finishing ability was nearly impossible to stop. That translated to key wins against Purdue, Indiana, and Iowa.
The most important asset for a point guard is the ability to create baskets and avoid turnovers. Mason was excellent at both. His assist to turnover ratio per 100 possession is nearly 3:1. Beyond that, he was also an excellent scorer for much of the year. Between last year and this year, he improved his three point shooting by almost 6%, and had success with the pull up three point shot in transition.
Beyond his capabilities on offense, Mason emerged as a key leader for the Gophers. His performance against Purdue was just a taste of the importance he had this season for Minnesota. It is entirely fair to say that without Mason, the Gophers would have been unlikely to win a third of their games this year. Arguably, no player was more valuable to his team in the Big Ten.
Mason’s primary weakness on offense was his propensity to pull up for mid range jumpers. His true shooting and effective field goal percentages is weighed down by poor shot selection. He remained a good defender, but will never have great size which occasionally led to mismatches against bigger defenders.
Projection for next season
Mason will be the starter, but next year he will actually have a backup. Isaiah Washington is a 4 star recruit and Mr. Basketball New York. Assuming Washington is as good as we think he will be (and we’re quite high on his potential), the Gophers will have claim to the top point guard combination in the Big Ten next year. Even if Washington’s game does not live up to the hype, having an actual point guard backup for Mason will be positive for the team’s prospects. Mason played too many minutes this year, which could have potentially contributed to several season slumps.