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Minnesota Basketball: What is wrong with the Gopher offense in 1 chart

Why does the Gopher offense typically struggle so much? Here is your answer.

NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Minnesota David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

If you have paid attention to Gopher basketball this week, you have likely heard or read the same thing over and over. Something, something about three-point shooting. Know what I’m talking about?

It has become increasingly clear that the Gopher offense has a real problem. It was all over my Twitter feed this week. I even mentioned it in a February 1st article. And I certainly didn’t come up with it, I heard it on a broadcast of an earlier game. Well here is 1 visual that quickly summarizes the problem with Gopher basketball 2020-21.

You see, this is a problem to be standing out all alone in the upper left quadrant. Not only are we the worst shooting team from 3, but we take the most shots. This makes no sense.

You may notice that other teams have problems of their own from three. Nebraska shoots almost as poorly as we do, but they take far fewer shots, finding other ways to score. And if we’re being honest, Nebraska basketball in 2021 is not who we want to be comparing ourselves to.

Iowa shoots nearly as many shots as we do, but notice how far away they are from us to the right? That’s because they make a LOT more of their attempts. Illinois makes even more, but doesn’t take very many. Perhaps they should take more, but there worse problems.

So what really is the problem with Gopher basketball and this odd 3-point shooting ratio?

You may recall that just 2 years ago this team was dead last in the Big Ten in 3-point attempts. Hard to believe right? As a new crew of athletes were becoming eligible to play, there was considerable emphasis heading into last season to take more threes. Adding guys like Marcus Carr, Peyton Willis and Tre Williams to replace the likes of Jordan Murphy, Amir Coffey and Dupree McBrayer was not only going to mean more attempts, but these guys were overall better shooters.

So the 2019-20 team, with an All-American at center, attempted way more threes. They jumped from 554 attempts in 2018-19 to 762 the following year. Attempts went up by 38%! And remarkably, their shooting % also went up; by 2 percentage points.

Now this year hits and we are yet taking more threes. It is only about 1 additional attempt per game. Assuming the same number of games as last year, we’d take just shy of 800 threes at the current pace.

But the problem, THE PROBLEM, is that we are making far fewer.

A year ago, while taking 762 threes, we made nearly 34% of them. Not a great number, but good enough to be just above the NCAA average.

This year, while on pace to take nearly 800 shots (over what would be a normal, full season), we are making just under 30%.

This isn’t working. They are often taking really bad shots and when they are getting actual “good” shots, they are not making them. So what should be happening? Well there are 2 things that this team should be focusing on.

First, get the ball into the post. Get touches for Liam Robbins, find Brandon Johnson in the post. Work this offense from the inside-out. This make the defense collapse a bit, or better yet a double-team in the post which leaves someone open. Those type of three-point attempts are typically higher percentage, or the post player can score.

Secondly, get to the rim. Carr, Kalscheur, Gach and even Williams are adept at penetrating into the paint. Get to the paint and then good things often happen. A fould, a dump off for an lay-in or a kickout to an open three-point shooter. I’m not opposed threes, but let’s find a way to get good shots.

But this offense seems hellbent on quick threes that are questionably open. This is stemming from overdribbling and lack of ball reversal. It isn’t pretty. We are just not making shots and the trend is concerning.

You get a bonus visual.

This trend very concerning indeed. Other than recruiting, I have no real explanation for such a decline in 3-point shooting over the 8 years under Pitino. Perhaps the good news is that it can only get better next year.