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The Good, The Bad and The Interesting: Post-Gauntlet Edition

01/21/2013, 11:45am CST
By zipsofakron

Hollins is currently the top three-point shooter in the B1G.

It was definitely a “meh” week for the Gophers. They didn’t slay any Goliaths but they also didn’t do anything to embarrass themselves. Nothing to write home about, but nothing to panic over either. Sure, pulling out one win would have been nice, but losing to two of the country’s top teams won’t sound any alarms. Minnesota spotted two powerhouses 19-plus point leads, which is never part of a winning game plan, before trying furiously to regain composure and even up the game. Unfortunately it was too late in both contests and Minnesota tacked on two more losses to AP #5 teams.

 

However, they did come away 1-2 in the “gauntlet” of their schedule which saw them also travel to Illinois and come away with a victory. Winning on the road in the B1G is never an easy task and grabbing victories in Champaign is an even taller order. Thankfully, the Gophers avoided going 0-3 on their toughest stretch of the conference season and can now turn their attention to taking care of business against the rest of the conference. Things get slightly easier in the next couple weeks, though nothing is guaranteed this year with teams like Wisconsin beating Indiana on the road and then losing to Iowa.

 

Honestly, though, I’d much rather face Northwestern, Nebraska and Iowa than Illinois, Indiana and Michigan. But that’s just me. The bloodbath is sure to continue.

 

THE GOOD:

 

18 games, no bad losses – Looking at the past two games as a microcosm relative to the season as whole is an unfair way to take stock of just how successful it’s been so far. Sure, it reflects how the team has played most recently but when Minnesota has faced two of the nation’s top teams in back to back games extrapolating that performance to the rest of the season is a dangerous, inaccurate prospect.

 

Instead, let’s look at the season as a whole. The three losses to top teams is well documented, but it’s also worth pointing out that in 18 games this season the Gophers have lost exactly zero games they were supposed to win. Zero. In fact, each of their wins has come by double digits with the exception two, and that includes their three conference wins. It’s easy to fall victim to focusing on the most recent games as a barometer of how things are going, but looking at the season as whole shows that Minnesota’s recent performance is a departure from the level they previously performed at and, even with the recent losses, the team is performing at an exceptional level.

 

Austin Hollins: Coming to a three-point line near you – I’ve expressed my love for Austin Hollins probably far too many times this season, but since conference play has started he has done nothing but continue to come into his own as a top player. He sparked a near-comeback attempt against Michigan, hit some key shots in the comeback against Indiana and rained fire on Northwestern for three straight minutes, single-handedly transforming a close game into a blowout. We’ve all noted his defensive prowess this season, which is still a big part of his game, but a more notable growth has been the rise of his shooting ability.

 

Hollins, if you’ll recall, was recruited as a shooting prospect by Tubby. However, his first two seasons in town didn’t exactly warrant a whole lot of discussion about him being a top shooting threat. That has certainly changed this year, especially in conference play where Hollins is currently the top three-point shooter in the B1G. You read that right – he’s shooting almost 60 percent from long-range and is a big reason the Gophers (yes the Minnesota Gophers) are currently the best three-point shooting team in the conference. Hollins continues to quietly grow as an offensive power and has quickly become one of Minnesota’s most-dangerous shooting weapons.

 

BAD:

 

Andre Hollins needs to stop fouling – It didn’t become especially noticeable or hurtful to the team until the Michigan game, but when Hollins left the game early in the first half with two fouls it was apparent that things began to sway in favor of Michigan. How much of the Wolverines’ subsequent run was due to Hollins being off the court is up for debate, but it’s safe to say that having him on the bench didn’t do anything to help the Gophers stay in the game.

 

It was the second time in four games (Northwestern being the other) that Hollins was forced to miss extended court time due to foul trouble, but it was the arguably the first time all season that his absence had a direct impact on a Minnesota loss (Duke is the other). In short, having one of your best players get into early foul trouble against a great team just can’t happen.

 

Hollins’ recent foul troubles should raise some flags. He’s committed at least three fouls in seven of the last eight games and had four fouls apiece against Illinois and Indiana, though he miraculously didn’t commit a foul in the first half against the Hoosiers. The Gophers need him to play smart and stay on the court. He helps the team a whole lot more by easing up a bit on defense and staying on the court than by accruing two ticky-tack fouls and heading to the bench for 10 minutes.

 

Terrible turnover margin – It doesn’t just seem like the Gophers are turning the ball over more than their opponents; they actually are. In fact, they are doing it so much that they currently have the worst turnover margin in the entire conference during B1G play. Worse than Penn State. In fact, Minnesota has committed the second-most turnovers in the conference (78). For comparison, Michigan has turned the ball over only 48 times during conference play.

 

Turnovers are the lifeblood of college basketball. Take care of the ball and you control the game. Give it away and you just give the opposing team more chances to score and win. Minnesota does a good job forcing turnovers and getting out in transition, but they’ve nullified that advantage by giving the ball right back. Michigan scored more than 20 points off turnovers in the first half alone last week. That is not a recipe for success. In fact, the Gophers haven’t turned the ball over less than 15 times in a single B1G game this year. Brutal.

 

INTERESTING:

 

Minnesota has the third-hardest schedule in the nation – Minnesota’s crazy-high RPI ranking is often a topic of discussion, but it’s worth pointing out that the Gophers currently have the third-hardest SOS in the entire nation. Third. For those non-math majors that means only two teams in the country have played a harder schedule than the Gophers. Our own SelectionSunday has been all over their RPI happenings, but having such a hard line of games is noteworthy considering that the Gophers currently sit at 15-3, even with that schedule. That’s a lot of good-to-great wins. The only teams with harder schedules at this point are Miami (FL) and Duke and not even they have as many top wins as Minnesota.

 

With nine wins in the RPI top 100, the victories continue to keep on giving. NDSU, Memphis and SDSU continue to look better and better and more conference games means an even harder strength of schedule. SOS is a big component of maintaining a high RPI, and having so many top wins in their pocket already is a big numbers victory.

 

 

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Tag(s): Gopher Basketball