Our final players’ recap focuses on the centers.
Who played minutes?
Reggie Lynch and Bakary Konate.
It is somewhat hard to overstate the importance of Reggie Lynch to the Gophers last season. Lynch was the correct and obvious choice for defensive player of the year. When he was on the court, the Gophers functioned at a high level on both offense and defense.
Unfortunately, Lynch had massive foul problems throughout the year. We will return to that point when we discuss weaknesses, but it is a good transition to talk about his backup. Bakary Konate has weirdly become the most hated on member of the basketball team. This hatred is unwarranted, and not just because Konate is the backup center. To repeat, Konate is the backup center. Konate was a serviceable (though certainly not world-beater) at the position who showed improvement over the season. The only reason he saw extensive minutes was because Lynch was in foul trouble. Judging Konate as if he should be Kennedy Meeks and seeing that he failed to live up to that standard is silly. It is also silly to say that he is not a D1 talent.
Centers Per 100 Possessions
Centers Statistical Profile
Reggie Lynch blocks shots.
He blocks shots better than any other player in Minnesota history. Lynch is a difference maker for Minnesota’s defense. His presence allows guards to be more aggressive against shooters on the three point line because they have rim protection. He is fast enough and has good enough reflexes to defend pick and rolls, which provides flexibility for Minnesota.
Lynch also possesses a smooth offensive game that was surprisingly productive. He showed the ability to drive past slower defenders as well as a simple back to the basket game.
Bakary Konate is a back up center. His strength is providing serviceable minutes against reserve bigs. In that role, Konate was fine. He has raw athleticism and put up good performances against Ethan Happ in the first Wisconsin game and Isaac Haas during the Purdue game.
Reggie Lynch’s biggest weakness is a propensity to foul. Lynch fouls a lot, and lots of those fouls are silly fouls. To my knowledge, Reggie Lynch is the only player to get his coach a technical foul for yelling at him. That was not a good look for Pitino, but it is a major frustration. We wrote most previews and recaps about how Lynch’s foul trouble or lack thereof was pivotal to the outcome of the game.
Bakary Konate is a non factor on the offensive end. His hands have improved since last year, but no one passes him the ball. As a result the Gophers are much easier to defend when he is on the court. Konate also continued to have difficulty with positioning on defense, especially defending high pick and rolls.
Projection for next season
Absent a spring signing, Lynch and Konate will be the options at center next year. In the offseason, both of them need to work on their offensive game. We also hope that Lynch will learn to make better decisions on the court, and find a way to become less foul prone. No player will be more important for the Gophers’ success next year.