We continue today with our player recaps by looking at the shooting guards, an unexpected strength of the team this season.
Who played minutes?
Akeem Springs and Dupree McBrayer.
Springs turned into arguably Pitino’s best recruit, and established himself as a starter early on in the season. A captain of the team, Springs brought essential leadership qualities to a young team, as well as tough defense and a three point game.
After struggling early on the season, McBrayer turned into a formidable sixth man. The sophomore used his quickness and strength as a slasher, but was able to play more under control and improve his metrics across the board. Defense remains a concern, but McBrayer continues to show growth as an offensive weapon.
As a reminder, Per 100 Possessions estimate the number of possessions a player was on the court and then divides by 100.
Shooting Guards Per 100 Possessions
The second table is the statistical profile.
Shooting Guard Statistical Profile
Both Springs and McBrayer were volume shooters and scorers, and they filled that role in admirably during the season. Each player had multiple games where they were the primary offensive weapon for the team.
Springs’s leadership qualities are both intangible (and therefore not measurable) and his most important strength. His injury during a meaningless conference tournament game likely made the difference between the second round and the loss the MTSU.
Shot selection. McBrayer in particular loved to take long contested fade away 2s throughout the season. Both players when off became chuckers that harmed the offensive flow and efficiency. Fortunately, these tendencies were tamped down for much of the year.
Projection for next season
Springs’s graduation will mean that McBrayer will return to the starting line up as the off guard next to Mason. He will be spelled by Jamir Harris, the other recruit of the 2017 class.
In the offseason, McBrayer will have to improve his strength and quickness. Last offseason, he gained 15 pounds and was noticeably stronger through contact. If he can continue to put on some more weight while maintaining quickness, he will become much harder to defend on the drive. As important, McBrayer needs to improve his three point game and shot selection. He had a tendency this year to be a ball stopper or take ill-advised long twos. Both tendencies lowered his efficiency on offense.
On defense, McBrayer will need to improve his play recognition. He was beaten on back cuts semi regularly in the early part of the season which likely contributed to his removal from the starting lineup. This is mostly a product of film study and attitude, so we expect that McBrayer will make some improvement in the offseason.
Harris comes in with expectations of being a lights out shooter from deep. If those prove to be true, the Gophers will have a much more efficient offense. Pitino clearly prefers a slashing pick and roll game, which only works when there is a shooter that defenders have to stay on.