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Gopher Basketball: The Off-Season Outlook

Minnesota’s season ended after 34 games on Thursday. It was a fantastic year finishing in the top four of the Big Ten, earning an NCAA Tournament bid, and winning 24 games. So what’s next?

Minnesota’s season ended after 34 games on Thursday.  It was a fantastic year finishing in the top four of the Big Ten, earning an NCAA Tournament bid, and winning 24 games. So what’s next?

1.     Take a breath.  Get away from the office for some time. 

2.     Reassess.  What is the plan going forward?

3.     Roster.  Who will transfer out? Ahmad Gilbert will likely be one.

4.     Roster 2.  Spring recruiting.  Does a transfer come in for the frontcourt? Do they want a freshman next year? There will be one, maybe two additions but I wouldn’t expect that to hit the surface for another couple weeks.

5.     Recruiting.  There are still some state tournaments going on around the country plus 2018 recruiting is a month away.  How many scholarships will they have for that 2018 class?  That depends on if Davonte Fitzgerald is going to be here for one or two more years, and it depends on how many guys transfer out, and how many spring additions there will be. 

6.     Ignore.  Richard Pitino had a good year.  He will be in the news for potential job openings.  Happens all the time.  Already his name is being brought up for LSU.  It just needs to be ignored because it’s disruptive chatter.  If it happens some day than so be it.

7.     Player Development.  This is likely the most important and that is where the balance of this article now takes us.

 

Nate Mason. 

What caught my attention.  Nate’s assist to turnover ratio was again as good very good despite how often the ball is in his hands.  Also, I’ve always thought Nate Mason was very good but All Big Ten was more than I envisioned.  Nobody that watched in high school ever expected him to be the player he was right away, and the few that did, I doubt they expected All Big Ten.

What needs to improve. He shot 38 percent for the year from the field.  That needs to improve.  Where do you start with that? Shot selection.  I still feel he attacks crowded lanes too often and takes a couple bad shots a game early in the shot clock.

 

Dupree McBrayer. 

What surprised me.  Dupree is a double figure scoring underclassmen and the biggest thing, he shot 41.7 percent from the arc this year!  Dupree shoots the ball very well with his feet set. The offensive talent is there.

What needs to improve.  Offensive decision making.  It got him benched a lot.  Too often I don’t understand why he attacks cluttered lanes and tries to shoot over multiple player traffic or dribble into that traffic.  For a guy who shoots nearly 42 percent at the arc I would rather him move the ball around the perimeter more and then score on the return. He does attack well, he also is a great feet set shooter.  Why not be more patient and shoot at the arc with space to hit?  Why not be more patient and attack out of position defenses where there is more space to attack?  If he starts making better decisions on how to use his ability Dupree is going to be outstanding.  That needs to come with maturity as an upperclassmen.

 

Amir Coffey. 

What surprised me.  The impact he made. I expected Amir to be a 9-10 point per game guy, instead he was a 12 point per game guy.  I expected Amir to shoot at 30 percent at the arc or below it, he made a third of his treys.  I thought Coffey would be a starter and a regular, at about 26 minutes a game.  He was a trusted 33 minute a game guy.

What needs to improve.  Amir will of course want to take that 33 percent and move it up a couple points, I thought he would rebound a bit more (3.8 is still solid but Coffey is 6-7/6-8 and he was a great high school rebounder as a wing), and Coffey has to be able to move around screens better in the Big Ten in chase.  That, and he has to defensive board better.  Some extra strength would help that.

 

Jordan Murphy. 

What surprised me.  How he snapped out of a bad stretch of games with an amazing stretch of games.  It made him an All Big Ten third team player.  Jordan also improved greatly as a defender.  There was a definite switch in his approach to the game and it’s not a coincidence that this team immediately started playing better when that switch was made.

What I needs to improve.  Jordan finished as an 11.1 point, 8.8 rebound a game guy.  Those numbers will be better as long as he simply plays as hard next year as he did this year consistently.  He can surely be a 13/14 point per game, 9/10 rebound a game guy next year.  Also, Jordan shot 4 of 31 from the arc.  He wants to be able to shoot from the perimeter which is fine.  Work on it, if that skill comes, even better.  But don’t let it take away from who you are.

 

Reggie Lynch. 

What surprised me.  Reggie was better in the low post offensively than I thought he would be, he was better at the foul line than he has been in years past (64 percent), and we all expected a shot blocker, but didn’t know he was going to have the greatest shot blocking season in Big Ten history.

What needs to improve. He improved from 17 minutes a game played as a sophomore to 23 minutes a game as a junior.  The dumb fouls have to go though.  It changed yesterday’s game.  Minnesota needs him on the floor 26/27 minutes game next year and that will take his 8.4 points and 6.2 rebounds a night and add to it.  With improvement I would expect about 9.7/7.4 and another all time shot blocking year. It would be John Thomas like, only with way better shot blocking.

 

Eric Curry. 

What surprised me.  His work ethic and shooting touch were better than I expected (although 5 of 28 treys isn’t good enough). Honestly though, overall this is about what I expected from Curry this year.  Played hard and active.

What needs to improve.  Curry shot 42.5 percent from the field this year because he missed too many lay-ups.  Plain and simple.  He also needs to focus more on that mid-range jumper on the baseline and elbow, and less on the three for now I believe.  Add some more defensive halfcourt consistency off the ball and he will be great. 

 

Michael Hurt. 

What surprised me.  Thought Mike would make a bigger impact as a shooter and there were some defensive footwork problems that led to him getting beat defensively and he didn’t have the speed to recover.

What needs to improve. Mike played an average of six minutes a game in 25 of 33 games this season.  If that is to go up Mike must be a more confident shooter.  Michael was a 40 plus percent three-point shooter as a high school senior.  He’s a solid team basketball wise but for him to be on the court next year he has to make shots.  This team needs a player that can make shots with feet set and they need a pass first/feet set shooter to off-balance the amount of instant dribble attack guards/wings on the floor at times.  Michael was brought here to be that guy and he needs to do that next season.

 

Bakary Konate. 

What surprised me.   Bakary was a low post worker defender who played ten minutes a game who scored once a night, blocked one shot a game, and grabbed three boards.  Thought he would play a bit more minutes per game (like 12-14) but Bakary had so many issues with defending ball screens that Pitino had to pull him.

What needs to improve. Bakary will always board, work hard defensively, block a couple shots, and dunk after dump-offs.  He’s not going to touch the ball much on post entry passes.  If he is to play more he has to move better and have a better understanding of how to defend ball screens.  Not sure how much is going to change there.

 

Davonte Fitzgerald. 

What surprised me.   Before he got hurt people described him as a Paul Carter type.  I was not expecting that.  This team needs that type of player.

What needs to improve.  The team needs a veteran leader to help replace Akeem Springs.  If Fitzgerald can do part of that, be a defender like Akeem was, hit shots at the arc, and be a hard working leader, that would be gigantic. Tough to talk about him as it’s but years since he actually played a college game without some type of item stopping or slowing him (three years actually).

 

Stephon Sharp. 

What surprised me.  This is about what I expected.  I didn’t think Stephon would play much as Coffey and Springs were going to get those minutes and Nate was going to play big minutes.

What needs to improve.  Stephon is a hard working, dependable player.  He works hard.  If the Gophers could trust him to be a consistent shooter and defender he could get some time.

 


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