After a loss against Wisconsin on New Year’s Eve, Minnesota enters 2021 with a 9-2 overall record and a 2-2 conference record. The Gophers are 3-1 in their last four games, and continue a brutal conference stretch with four more games in a row against top 25 competition. Seeing as it is the New Year, The Daily Gopher has a list of New Year’s Resolutions for the team.
Improve Three Point Shooting
While three point shooting is a key part of the offense the Gophers have frequently come up short from distance. Minnesota has made 25% or less of their three point attempts in six of their 11 games. In the Gophers’ two best wins of the season (Saint Louis and Iowa), the team made three pointers at a 40% clip. To be consistently competitive, Minnesota needs to raise their team three point percentage to at least 33% per game.
Why does three point shooting matter so much? Consider the Wisconsin game. The Badgers made a decision to jump high pick and rolls with hard hedges against Marcus Carr and then scramble back to their defensive responsibilities. For much of the first half, this implied that at least one Gopher was wide open, either on the immediate pass or the secondary pass. Quite often, that person was Gabe Kalscheur or Both Gach who combined to shoot 4-14 from distance for the game. If three point shots are dropping more consistently, lesser defensive teams than Wisconsin will be roasted by Minnesota if they play an identical hedge strategy. That will allow Marcus Carr more freedom to drive and create.
Improve Defensive Rebounding
Minnesota is long at almost every position. There is really no excuse for the number of offensive rebounds the team gives up night in and night out. Liam Robbins, Brandon Johnson, Isaiah Ihnen, and Eric Curry all need to improve their rebounding. Furthermore, the guards have to do a better job of corralling long boards off of missed jump shots. While offensive rebounds do not start a new possession, at minimum they increase the amount of time the Gophers have to spend on defense.
A happy surprise through the first 11 games is that Minnesota is doing a decent job on the offensive glass. That is another data point that the Gophers have the talent to be a great defensive rebounding team.
Look for the Great Shot even if the Good Shot will do
Through 11 games, Minnesota is in the top 40 on shortest average time of possession. They are top 4 in the conference through four games. Like all averages, there is some important variation to consider. Chief among them is that Minnesota wants to play in transition. We are not suggesting that the Gophers stop looking for quick break opportunities.
Our resolution focuses on the half court. As Richard Pitino noted on Twitter, when the Gophers pass the ball a lot, good offense tends to follow. Minnesota has gotten stuck into patterns of taking quick shots that are somewhat open instead of running through the offensive system to try and get a better one. In the New Year, Minnesota should look to run a lot more offense through Liam Robbins to force defenses to collapse to the post. More ball swings off pick and roll action will keep defenses honest and let the slashing game open up to the basket.
The Gophers are a good basketball team this year, and are still on pace for a NCAA Tournament bid. That sentence is true even if Minnesota loses four out of their next five games. The Big Ten is just that good this year. However, the Gophers possess the talent on paper to make a strong showing in the second half of the season. If Minnesota is able to carry out our three New Year’s Resolutions, they could challenge for a top 4 conference finish at season’s end.