The Good. Mason was a top ten scorer in the Big Ten with 15.2 points per game, top five in assists averaging a shade under five assists a game. His 2.6 to 1 assist to turnover ration was top three in the league. Started every game and scored in double figures 30 times.
As a freshman Mason shot 39 percent from the arc but sank to 30 percent as a sophomore. Nate shot better this year making 36 percent of the 4-5 three-pointers a game he took. Nate also improved for the second straight year as a foul shooter making 81 percent of his attempts and he was a better rebounder this season grabbing 3.6 a contest.
The Not So Good. The lone statistical issue that Mason has is his field goal percentage. He only shot 37.6 percent from the field this year and that was with him shooting 36 percent from the arc. Mason was 115 for 300 inside the arc which is a percentage of 38 which is much too low. Mason’s all time best field goal percentage was 40.9 as a freshman and it continues to drop each year.
Focus on 17-18
With so much talent coming back the simple answer is that Minnesota will be better and should make an NCAA Tournament run (Sweet 16 is the expectation). An improvement from 16-17 makes sense considering all of the returning players but with that said the plan to get there is still tough.
Mason has to be the leader. He is the point guard and the player the team looks to when a play needs to be made as well as when a calming presence is needed. Mason can playmake with the best so that role will be filled but Akeem Springs was the vocal leader last year, and now Springs is graduated.
When Springs wasn’t on the floor the Gophers went through many stretches of forced possessions. There were quick contested shots taken early in the shot clock and there were forced attacks that resulted in bad misses or turnovers. Nate Mason was a part of this. Two or three times a game he took shots that were low percentage and forced against a set defense. That must change.
Nate is an aggressive player. The last thing you want to do is take away that aggression. That said Minnesota is a talented team and when they are moving the basketball in the halfcourt set they get open looks everywhere on the floor. Mason must pull back on a few of the quick contested shots each game and be that calming force.
Mason is extremely talented and has the talent to take this team to where it needs to go. His pull-up jumper is as good as there is in the Big Ten and he’s been a high percentage three-point shooter most of his career. Mason rarely turns the ball over on the stat sheet and he’s improved defensively. With all that being there, the next thing needed is Nate being the example of a veteran point guard.
Chemistry. It’s what this team needs to have if they are to make the run expected of them. Mason and Dupree McBrayer have been playing together for two seasons. Amir Coffey is a third attack-first player and now the team has added extremely talented playmaker in Isaiah Washington. How will Mason mix in with Washington and lead this group of four playmakers next season?
Figuring out the balance of the offense belongs to Richard Pitino but Mason is the guy that will carry out the plans. You can expect him to handle often and rarely come off the floor but he will play with Washington around 15 minutes a night. Who handles the ball then? Having Nate as the shooting guard may free him up some to be the shot first scoring threat that is in his blood.
How this team mixes chemistry wise will tell how the season will go. The talent is there. Few teams in the Big Ten will be able to get up and down with the Golden Gophers and you can count on one hand the amount of Big Ten teams with the amount of talent the Gophers do. And even fewer have a player like Mason.
Projected Stat Line. Mason making another 1.4 point per game jump is doable so a 16.7 point per game average is what I can see from him. He will likely shoot better from the arc if he is more selective with his attempts so 38 percent is about right. Mason needs to have his best overall field goal shooting season of his career so let’s set the percentage goal at about 41 with hopes for higher. Mason should average another 4.5 assists a night and be an 80 plus percent foul shooter again.