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Minnesota Gophers Basketball

B1G BRIEFS – 11/19/12


B1G BRIEFS
Monday, November 19, 2012

Get caught up quickly on how teams around the Big Ten fared this past week with Late Night Hoops and their B1G BRIEFS!

Big Ten teams in the AP and Coaches Polls released Monday, November 19:
Indiana (#1 AP/#1 Coaches)
Ohio State (#3/#3)
Michigan (#4/#4)
Michigan State (#15/#19)
Wisconsin (NR/#24)
Also receiving votes: Minnesota (26th/29thth), Wisconsin (27th/ranked)

Illinois (3-0)
The Illini won 89-64 at home against St. Francis (NY) before traveling to Honolulu. There, they took on Hawai’I and survived 78-77 in overtime.

  • D.J. Richardson is shooting 31.0% 3FG (9/29). The rest of the team is connecting at a 45.6% rate (26/57). Tyler Griffey (5/11) has used the 3-pointer to push his average up to 9.7 points per game.
  • Brandon Paul leads the team in scoring with 19.7 per game, which isn’t a surprise. Not far behind is sophomore guard Tracy Abrams at 16.7 points per game and only 7 turnovers in total this year.
  • The Illini received a fifth commitment for 2013 when Austin Colbert chose them. Colbert is a long and athletic 6’9” forward from New Jersey.

Indiana (3-0)
The Hoosiers beat a solid North Dakota State team 87-61 and destroyed Sam Houston St. 99-45. Both games were at home.

  • NDSU shot a respectable eFG% of 48.2% against Indiana.
  • Will Sheehey moved into the starting lineup, replacing senior Christian Watford. Said Watford about coming off the bench, “Just give 100% on both ends of the floor and everything will take care of itself.” Good comments from Watford, but the finite minutes available for a roster filled with talent will continue to be something coach Crean must navigate carefully.

Iowa (4-0)
The Hawkeyes played three relatively easy home games and came out unscathed: 73-61 over Central Michigan, 66-36 over Howard and 65-56 over Gardner Webb.

  • Nine Hawkeyes are averaging more than 13 minutes per game.
  • Aaron White hasn’t been in a sophomore slump so far. He’s averaging 14.8 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. The 6’8” forward has been to the line 39 times already this year and is grabbing offensive rebounds at a rate of 17%.
  • Junior Roy Devyn Marble leads Iowa in scoring at 15.5 per game.
  • Freshman point guard Mike Gesell hasn’t shot well, but is averaging 28.5 minutes and playing solid basketball.

Michigan (3-0)
No problem this week for the Wolverines. They played two games at Crisler Center and won both easily: 91-54 over IUPUI and 77-47 over Cleveland St.

  • The team is shooting an amazing 65.6% eFG thanks to making 34 of 64 3-point attempts (53.1%).
  • Tim Hardaway, the player we’re keeping an eye on most this year, is averaging 17.3 points per game and shooting 81.5% eFG, including 8/11 3FG (72.7%). Hardaway is also averaging 7.7 rebounds a night.
  • Trey Burke leads the team in scoring at 18.3 ppg. In addition to Burke and Hardaway, freshmen Glenn Robinson (13.3) and Nick Stauskas (11.0) are also averaging double figure scoring.

Michigan State (2-1)
The Spartans earned a 67-64 victory over Kansas in a neutral court game in Georgia and followed that up with an easy home win over Texas Southern, 69-41.

  • Gary Harris won Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors. He’s leading the Spartan scoring attack with 16.0 ppg this year.
  • The team is shooting just 25.0% (10/40) from 3-point range this season. Other than Keith Appling (5/9), that percentage is 16.1%.

Minnesota (4-0)
The Gophers started off with big leads and cruised to victory over Toledo (82-56) and Tennessee State (72-43) before getting a bit of a test from Richmond before pulling away for a 72-57 win. All of Minnesota’s games have been within the friendly confines of Williams Arena.

  • Opposing teams have been limited to a 31.5% eFG. Five Gophers are averaging one or more blocks per game and the team has 35 on the year.
  • As they did last year, Rodney Williams and Austin Hollins have led the way, both averaging 14.5 points per game.
  • Williams has been excellent and has his usage rate over 21% while maintaining an offensive rating of approximately 127. In addition, he’s been a key to the defensive dominance the Gophers have enjoyed so far this year.
  • Trevor Mbakwe played a season-high 27 minutes against Richmond and the tentativeness that he appeared to have in the first two games of the season looks to be a thing of the past. He looked like his old self against the Spiders, grabbing 12 boards.

Nebraska (3-0)
The Huskers survived Valpo 50-48 and beat Nebraska-Omaha 75-62, both games at home.

  • Of their top four scorers, three are seniors (Ubel, Talley, Almeida) and one is a junior (Gallegos). Combined, they’ve scored 81.2% of the team’s points this year.

Northwestern (3-0)
Three home games this week for the Wildcats and three wins: 79-49 over Texas Southern, 81-68 over Mississippi Valley St. and 80-53 over Fairleigh Dickinson

  • Reggie Hearn has led the scoring with 15.3 ppg and an eFG% of 84.8%.
  • Freshman center Alex Olah is averaging 20.3 mpg, 8.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg and 2.0 bpg.

Ohio State (3-0)
Ohio State won their home opener, downing Albany 82-60. The Buckeyes then went on the road to Connecticut and won games on back-to-back days over Rhode Island (69-58) and Washington (77-66).

  • Who will score for this team besides Deshaun Thomas, Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith? How relevant is that question? Thomas is happy to carry more of the scoring load. Through 3 games, he’s averaging 25.5 points and 7.0 rebounds, has turned it over only 4 times and has an eFG% of 60.0%.
  • Thomas also earned Big Ten Player of the Week honors.
  • Aaron Craft is averaging 17.0 points and 5.0 assists per game. The junior point guard has an eFG% of 61.7% and has made 50.0% of his 3FGA (7/14). His turnover rate has been high during his first two seasons in Columbus, but has limited his miscues to just 1.0 per game this year.
  • The Buckeyes received a pledge from 2014 forward Keita Bates-Diop of Illinois. A very nice addition for Ohio State.

Penn State (2-2)
The Nittany Lions dropped games to North Carolina State (72-55) and Akron (85-60) and beat Providence (55-52 in overtime). All three games were played in Puerto Rico.

  • Tim Frazier went out with an injury just several minutes into the Akron game Sunday. The senior guard was holding his left ankle, but was eventually able to hobble off the court. The team will take a closer look at Frazier back in Pennsylvania, but there is a wide range of possible severity here. Any significant missed time for Frazier would be a huge blow to Penn State.
  • Impact transfer D.J. Newbill is putting up 14.5 points per game.

Purdue (1-3)
Purdue beat Hofstra at home 83-54 before traveling to New York and dropping a heart breaker to Villanova (89-81 in overtime) and another to Oregon State 66-58. Coming into the year, we were down on Purdue compared to the consensus media picks (we slotted them as the tenth best team in the Big Ten, ahead of only Penn State and Nebraska) and are not surprised by their start.

Nonetheless, some of the Purdue freshmen have shown they can play and it’ll be interesting to see what Matt Painter can get out of this team.

  • D.J. Byrd (11.0 ppg) is the only player averaging more than 9 points per game, but his shot has not been falling (8/27 3FG for 29.6%).
  • As a team, the Boilermakers have shot 25.0% from 3-point range (19/76).

Wisconsin (2-1)
Florida throttled the visiting Badgers 74-56 on Wednesday. Wisconsin returned home and did the same to Cornell 73-40.

  • Jared Berggren leads the team with a scoring average of 16.0 points and has also pulled down 7.0 rebounds per game.
  • Ben Brust has been very good, averaging 12.7 points and 8.3 rebounds and maintaining a 3-to-1 assist to turnover ratio.

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Game Preview: Gophers vs. Richmond Spiders 11/18/12

Richmond Spiders (3-0) at Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-0)
Sunday, November 18, 2012 | 6pm CT | TV/Online: BTN

Minnesota will have a significant size advantage inside when they host the Richmond Spiders at Williams Arena Sunday evening. However, Richmond’s backcourt is their strength and they have several quality guards capable of putting up points.

While the Gophers should be able to dominate the boards and inside scoring, the concern will be Richmond’s outside shooting. For an underdog like the Spiders, the 3-point shot can be an equalizer and this will be the first offense Minnesota has faced that favors outside shooting.

So far this season the Gophers’ defense has allowed an effective field goal percentage (eFG%) of just 29.4% which has helped them win by an average of more than 30 points per game. While the competition hasn’t been good, Minnesota’s defense has been great.

Nonetheless, a defensive eFG% of 29.4% is not sustainable. To put the 29.4% average in perspective, consider that the worst performance in any single game of the 38 played during the 2011-12 season was 35.7% (by USC in a 55-40 Minnesota win).

Although they’ve coasted to victory in each game this season, the Gophers have committed a number of unforced turnovers and allowed their opponents to more offensive rebounds and free throw attempts than Tubby Smith would like to see. If Minnesota does not clean up these areas, they’ll find themselves in tight ball games against teams who aren’t miserable at making shots.

With a trip to the Bahamas and Thanksgiving date with Duke coming up this week, the Gophers need to stay focused on Richmond. Minnesota is clearly the better team and should win, but a lackluster effort on their part combined with strong 3-point shooting for Richmond could result in the Gophers being caught up in the Spiders’ web.

Below you’ll find a PLAYERS TO WATCH section highlighting specific Tigers and an OTHER NOTES section. For additional information on the Gophers and Big Ten basketball, go to LateNightHoops.com.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Leading scorer #3 Darien Brothers (14.6 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 37.6% 3FG in 2011-12) is back for his senior year and has started off hot. Through three games, the 6’3” guard is averaging 19.7 points and has shot an eFG% of 71.9%.

Brothers presents a challenge in that he’s a threat both from behind the arc and attacking the basket. He’s gone for 30+ points several times in his career and keeping him covered is a top priority for the Gopher defense.

Sophomore point guard #0 Kendall Anthony (13.0 ppg, 1.7 apg) stands just 5’8” and comes off the bench, but he’s extremely quick and hasn’t had a problem getting shots off. Approximately half of his shots come from 3-point range where he’s connected on an impressive 43.4% of his career attempts as a Spider.

#2 Cedrick Lindsay (11.2 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 3.7 apg, 34.1% 3FG) is another guard who can hit from deep, but the 6’1” junior scores most of his points closer to the basket and at the line. Keep an eye on him in transition.

Big #34 Derrick Williams (11.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg) is 270 pounds and big enough to battle in the post despite being only 6’6”. He’ll look to draw fouls and get to the line where he’s a career 77% shooter.

Sophomore reserve guard #4 Wayne Sparrow’s freshman year ended early after breaking his hand, but this year he’s averaged 8.7 ppg and has shot 5/12 from 3-point range.

OTHER NOTES 

  • Richmond’s margin of victory (31.7 per game) this year is higher than Minnesota’s (30.3).
  • On Sunday, these teams will be meeting for just the second time in history. Next season, the Gophers will head to Richmond for a third meeting.
  • Richmond won the first match up 67-66 in a 2002 NIT game at Williams Arena. Current Michigan head coach John Beilein was at the helm for that team and left for West Virginia just weeks after beating Minnesota.
  • The announced attendance of 10,107 for Thursday’s game against Tennessee State was the lowest regular season attendance of the Tubby Smith era.
  • Check in often at LateNightHoops.com as we’ll share some insights on team and player statistics after the first four games of the year as the Gophers prepare for Duke and the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.
  • Oto Osenieks has struggled from 3-point range (0/8) and from the field in general (5/16 for 31.3%). However, in 43 minutes on the court he’s been credited with six assists and zero turnovers. We’ll take a missed shot over a turnover any day, especially when the Gophers are rebounding about half of their own misses. Don’t give up on him yet.
  • We’d like to see Trevor Mbakwe and Maurice Walker get more time on the court Sunday and believe they’re vital to competing against Duke and others next week.
  • Rodney Williams put together a nice line against Tennessee State with 15 points and 7 rebounds on 7/9 FG, but it was his defense that impressed us most. Tigers’ star forward Robert Covington was limited to 10 points on 4/11 shooting and no trips to the line.


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Game Preview: Gophers vs. Tennessee State 11/15/12

Tennessee State Tigers at Minnesota Golden Gophers
Thursday, November 15, 2012 | 7pm CT | TV/Online: ESPN3

Tennessee State comes to Minneapolis with a record of 0-2, having lost on the road to BYU and South Dakota State. The Tigers were picked to finish second in the East division of the Ohio Valley behind conference newcomer Belmont. Murray State and their returning star Isaiah Cannon were the top pick on the West side of the conference.

The Gophers will not have the only NBA prospects on the floor at Williams Arena Thursday night. Tennessee State’s versatile senior forward Robert Covington was superb last year and has continued to progress during his three seasons in Nashville.

Head coach Travis Williams took over for John Cooper who left for the top job at Miami (OH) in April. Williams worked as an assistant under Cooper for the past three seasons and takes over for a team that returns four starters and has a roster with a lot of Chicagoland talent.

Minnesota comes into the game 2-0 after winning their first two by a combined 62 points. It’s difficult to be critical of their play after two dominant performances, but there are areas that need improvement.

Minnesota turned the ball over 19 times against Toledo, including 12 turnovers from starting guards Andre Hollins (4) and Joe Coleman (8). Giving up the ball has been an issue for the Gophers in recent years, but they’ll try to buck that trend against a Tiger defense that is good at creating turnovers.

Another area Tubby Smith’s team will try to address is allowing their opponents to earn trips to the line. Both American and Toledo were given 23 free throw attempts.

If Covington gets loose for 30 points, which is possible, Tennessee State could make a game of this one. More likely, however, the Gophers cruise to 3-0.

Below you’ll find a PLAYERS TO WATCH section highlighting specific Tigers. For additional information on the Gophers and Big Ten basketball, go to LateNightHoops.com.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

#33 Robert Covington (17.8 ppg, 7.9 rpg in 2011-12) is a long and versatile 6’9” senior forward from the Chicago area and a threat from anywhere on the floor, with or without the ball. He’s a great shooter, defender and rebounder who is a cut above anyone Minnesota has seen so far this season.

Covington was very efficient with the ball a year ago and shot extremely well both inside the arc (57.0%) and behind it (65/145 for 44.8%). Defending Covington will be a nice test for Rodney Williams and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see these two going up against each other again next July in the NBA’s summer league.

Strong point guard #2 Patrick Miller (10.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.6 apg) stands 6’1”, 189 pounds and has been credited with a total of 19 assists in the Tigers’ first two games.   Prior to this year, Miller has shot infrequently and poorly from 3-point range (41/139 for 29.5%; 2.2 3FA/game), but has taken 9 attempts behind the arc already this year and made 3.

Miller is a better scorer when he gets close to the bucket and is a fairly strong guard who does draw contact. Minnesota would prefer the junior to continue shooting out on the perimeter as compared to him dishing to Covington or other open Tigers.

#1 Kellen Thornton (9.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg) played at Hillcrest (Ill.) and Brewster Academy (N.H.) in high school and began his college days at Illinois State. Now a senior and a big 6’8”, 243 pounds, Thornton is another good scoring option and a solid rebounder.

Others to mention:

  • Senior guard #45 Jordan Cyphers (8.0 ppg; 36.4% 3FG) started out at Utah before transferring two years ago.  He’ll likely come off the bench looking to fire away from long range.
  • #3 Kharon Butcher (1.9 ppg) is another reserve who is willing to try from 3-point range. He only went 8/28 3FG for 28.6% as a freshman, but he can hit from outside.
  • Redshirt sophomore #4 M.J. Rhett (3.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg) has added size to his 6’8” frame and helps inside with rebounding.


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B1G BRIEFS – 11/12/12

B1G BRIEFS
Monday, November 12, 2012

Through Sunday, all Big Ten teams except for Northwestern and Purdue have played one game. Northwestern’s first contest is Tuesday and the Boilermakers played two games over the weekend.

Below are notes on how each team started the year, as well a couple of 2013 Big Ten commitments (to Indiana and Wisconsin, respectively).

Illinois
John Groce won his first game as head coach at Illinois, beating Colgate 75-55 in Champaign. The Illini connected on 10/18 3-point attempts in the first half (13/30 for 43.3% for the game) and coasted in the second half.

  • Brandon Paul led the scoring for Illinois with 20 points. Paul also had 8 reb, 5 ast, 2 stl.
  • Six players made at least 1 3FG; three players made 3 3FG’s.
  • Six players had at least 6 rebounds. Illinois out-rebounded Colgate on the offensive boards 19-4.

Indiana
The Hoosiers strolled to a 97-54 win over Bryant.

  • Cody Zeller’s double-double (18 pts, 10 reb) was only the sixth of his career.
  • Freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell looked good: 10 pts, 7 ast, 5 reb in 24 min. He also nabbed Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors.
  • A guy we especially like as a future star, Jeremy Hollowell, also made his debut: 12 pts, 2 reb, 3 TO in 17 mins
  • Noah Vonleh of New Hampton School (NH), a top-10 ranked recruit in the class of 2013, committed to the Hoosiers.
  • Indiana announced it had reached an agreement on a new deal with Tom Crean. The contract is not finalized, but Indiana says it runs through 2020 and the increases the average annual non-performance based compensation resulting from $2.52 million to $3.16 million and that the incremental income will be paid through deferred compensation.

Iowa
Fran McCaffery’s team made an easy night of it, winning their opener 86-55 at home against Texas-Pan American.

  • Freshmen Adam Woodbury (10 pts, 3 reb, 3 blk in 14 min) and Mike Gesell (7 pts, 4 ast, 3 reb, 1 TO in 24 min) started.
  • With Aaron White, Adam Woodbury, Melsahn Basabe and Gabe Olaseni, Iowa is going to block a lot of shots this year.

Michigan
The Wolverines demolished Slippery Rock 100-62 behind big games from Tim Hardaway Jr. (25 pts, 10 reb, 105% eFG, 5/5 3FG) and Trey Burke (21 pts, 8 ast). Hardaway was named the Big Ten’s Player of the Week.

  • Freshmen Glenn Robinson III (10 pts, 8 reb), Mitch McGary (9 pts, 9 reb), and Nik Stauskas (7 pts) all had nice showings.

Michigan State
The Spartans tipped off against Connecticut in Germany. Things started off slow for Michigan State, trailing by as much as 16 in the first half. Tom Izzo’s team made it a game in the second half, but came up short and lost 66-62.

  • Branden Dawson is coming off ACL surgery, but looked explosive. The sophomore scored 15 points, grabbed 10 rebounds (8 offensive) and earned 5 steals.
  • True freshman Gary Harris wasn’t shy: 11 points on 4/13 shooting (1/7 3FG).

Minnesota
The Gophers manhandled American University 72-36. American’s 26.3% eFG was the lowest against a Minnesota team this century.

  • Junior wing Austin Hollins led the scoring with 20 points, also adding 5 rebounds and 5 steals.
  • Minnesota held a 22-8 advantage in turnovers.

Nebraska
New head coach Tim Miles was victorious, beating Southern 66-55.

  • Senior forward Brandon Ubel led the way with 21 points and 12 rebounds.
  • Dylan Talley, also a senior, scored 17 and junior guard Ray Gallegos added 16.
  • Nebraska shot an eFG of 54.6%.

Northwestern
The Wildcats begin their season on Tuesday, November 13 at home against Texas Southern.

Ohio State
The Buckeyes’ aircraft carrier game against Marquette was canceled Friday night, but they hosted Albany on Sunday and won easily 82-60.

  • Strong contributions from several players, led by Aaron Craft (20 pts, 7 ast, 5/7 3FG), Deshaun Thomas (19 pts) and Lenzelle Smith Jr. (18 pts, 5 reb, 8/11 FG).
  • The Buckeyes shot a blistering 67.9% eFG.

Penn State
The Nittany Lions won their opener 65-58 at home against Saint Francis. The Nits were outshot 54.4% to 39.4% eFG, but got to the line 18 more times than Saint Francis and allowed their opponent just 2 offensive rebounds (7% OR%).

The three double-figure scorers for Penn State were the three players we highlighted in our preseason preview:

  • Tim Frazier: 39 min, 23 pts, 6 ast, 4 reb, 17/18 FT
  • Southern Miss transfer D.J. Newbill: 16 pts, 7 reb, 9/10 FT
  • Minnesota’s Ross Travis: 10 pts, 9 reb (5 off)

Purdue
Minnesotan Mike Muscala and the Bucknell Bison went on the road and defeated Purdue 70-65 by outscoring the Boilermakers by 13 at the foul line.

The Boilers bounced back Sunday against Hofstra, winning 83-54.

  • Who will score for Purdue? The question remains… they’ve had 5 double-digit scorers, but no one who scored double-digits in both games.

Wisconsin
The Badgers hosted Southeastern Louisiana and jumped out to a 19-0 lead in a game that ended 87-47.

  • Ben Brust had an impressive game with 14 points and 11 boards while Jarred Berggren added 19 and 8.
  • Mike Bruesewitz was cleared to play after a leg injury suffered in practice last month. He played only 13 minutes, but poured in 10 points and was a perfect 3/3 from the field (2/2 3FG).
  • Redshirt freshman George Marshall started at point guard and finished with 5 points, 2 assists and 2 turnovers in 28 minutes.
  • Senior Ryan Evans, a career 71.1% free throw shooter coming into the game, was 1/8 from the line.
  • 2013 F Nigel Hayes committed to the Badgers over the weekend.
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Game Preview: Gophers vs. Toledo 11/12/12

 

Toledo Rockets at Minnesota Golden Gophers
Monday, November 12, 2012 | 7pm CT | TV/Online: Gopher All Access (Online)

Toledo scored the final 10 points Friday night at Loyola Chicago, but the run only made the scoreboard look a little bit better in a 62-50 loss.

This season the Rockets are playing for pride and with only one senior, the future. Due to APR scores from academic years prior to current head coach Tod Kowalczyk’s arrival, the team is banned from NCAA postseason play.  Nonetheless, they are picked to win the MAC’s west division this year (it’s fair to note that half of the division’s teams are directional schools in Michigan).

Kowlacyzk, a Minnesota-Duluth alumnus (1989), is in his third year at Toledo after eight years as head coach at Wisconsin-Green Bay. Previous stops include an assistant coaching stint at Marquette while Dwyane Wade was at the school.

Despite being a small team that will play three guards most of the night, Toledo won’t be an especially heavy 3-point shooting team this year. However, just about everyone on the floor is willing to take advantage of an open look if it’s there.

Minnesota will look to come out and frustrate the Rockets early and often as they did to American Friday night. On paper, Toledo is not as good as American and this looks like the Gophers’ second easiest game on the schedule (Lafayette on December 22 takes the honors).

The Gophers were excellent in their season opening 72-36 victory over American. It’s difficult to critique such a dominating performance, but two areas Minnesota will want to improve on against Toledo are limiting the Rockets’ free throw attempts and second chances.

Below you’ll find a PLAYERS TO WATCH section highlighting specific Rockets and an OTHER NOTES section that touches on miscellaneous items of interest. For additional information on Gopher and Big Ten basketball, go to LateNightHoops.com.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Running the point is sophomore #20 Julius Brown (11.9 ppg, 4.9 apg) from the fine Chicagoland high school Hillcrest. “Juice” Brown was the MAC’s freshman of the year and posted an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.6 to 1, but he’s undersized and will likely face a lot of pressure from the Gophers.

#5 Rian Pearson (16.4 ppg, 8.3 rpg)  a 6’4” junior guard, followed Kowalczyk from UWGB and can rebound and score inside despite his size. Pearson isn’t much of a 3-point threat (8/31 for 25.8% in 2011-12), but he’ll try his best to take on Minnesota’s defenders in the paint. A test for the Gophers will be keeping him (and Brown) off the line.

Another guard expected to start is former Iowa State Cyclone (yes, they also have transfers out of that program) #1 Dominique Buckley (9.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg), a solid 6’2” senior. He’s a career 40.4% 3-point shooter and is the guy the Gophers should be most concerned about from deep.

Others to mention:

  • Freshman center #53 Nathan Boothe is a big kid at 6’9”, 250 pounds. Can hit an outside shot. As the only Rocket with much size, the hope for Toledo is that he’ll stay out of early foul trouble. We don’t think that will be easy for him to do, however.
  • #32 Reese Holliday (7.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg) will likely come off the bench, but get 20+ minutes. Just 6’4”, had to play inside a lot last year, but should play more on the wing with Boothe’s arrival. In addition to an impressive defensive rebounding percentage , Holliday shot well in 2011-12.
  • Sliding over to power forward from center is #43 Matt Smith (8.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg), another UWGB transfer. Smith shot the ball well last year, but at 6’7” and only 225 pounds, he’ll struggle defending inside.

OTHER NOTES

  • Gophers forward Oto Osenieks was recruited by coach Kowalczyk at both UWGB and Toledo.
  • American’s 26.3% effective field goal percentage Friday night was the lowest Minnesota has held an opponent in any game this century (beginning with the 2000-01 season), per Late Night Hoops research.
  • The announced attendance of 10,172 for Minnesota’s home opener was 1,804 or 15% less than last year’s. Also, the attendance for Friday’s opener was the smallest Williams Arena crowd for any regular season game in the Tubby Smith era.
  • Tremendous ticket deals are available at www.GopherSports.com including $10 tickets and $15 packages that include a ticket and $5 concession voucher.
  • J.D. Weatherspoon transferred to Toledo from Ohio State and expects to be eligible to play for two years beginning in 2013-14. Weatherspoon starred at Northland (OH) high school with fellow 2010 graduate Jared Sullinger and their younger point guard Trey Burke.
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Game Preview: Gophers vs. American 11/9/12

American University Eagles at Minnesota Golden Gophers
Friday, November 9, 2012 | 7pm CT | TV/Online: Gopher All Access (Online)

Head coach Jeff Jones begins his 13th year at American with his squad picked to finish third in the top-heavy Patriot League behind familiar names Bucknell and Lehigh.

American lost its top two scorers (Charles Hinkle 18.4 ppg & Troy Brewer 11.9 ppg) to graduation and returning guard Blake Jolivette (23.7 mpg, 7.3 ppg) is out after suffering an ACL injury this summer. Combined, these three players accounted for 56% of last year’s points.

Still, there are a few experienced players ready to lead the Eagles this season.

Below you’ll find a PLAYERS TO WATCH section highlighting specific Eagles and THE TEAM section that covers the four factors. For additional information on Gopher and Big Ten basketball, go to LateNightHoops.com.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Point guard #2 Danny Munoz (31.8 mpg, 8.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 4.2 apg) had a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and made 43.9% of his 3-point tries, although he doesn’t shoot much (36/82 3FG). As good as some of those statistics may sound, it’s important to consider that he’s a low usage point guard and struggled with his 2-point shooting (35.7%).

Overall, Munoz is not game changer but he’s very important to the team as a senior and far and away American’s best option at the point. In a game like this, the Gophers have to be mindful that Munoz may want to try and set the tone for the season by showing he’s going to step up offensively more often.

#34 Tony Wroblicky (18.4 mpg, 6.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg) is a 6’10” junior who was excellent rebounding and blocking shots last year. He should see many more minutes this season if he’s able to stay out of foul trouble, but that’s a big if. Minnesota will want to test Wroblicky’s defense early on, as a cutting Rodney Williams or slashing Joe Coleman would be hard for the big lefthander to resist slapping.

#32 Stephen Lumpkins, whose father Larry played 30+ years ago at Northwestern, returns to college basketball after spending a year playing rookie ball for the Kansas City Royals organization. Lumpkins is a 6’8” lefty who can pitch into the low-90s, but he’s had far more success on the basketball court than on the mound.

As a junior in 2010-11, Lumpkins averaged 13.5 points and 8.2 rebounds in 30.0 minutes per game. We anticipate he’ll jump right back into old form despite the year on the diamond.

Neither of the big men shoots from distance, but they will look to get the high-low game working. While Wroblicky doesn’t always look confident when trying to score, Lumpkins is a legit scoring threat and who can take contact.

After the three players discussed above, things get a lot less impressive. However, a few others to mention:

  • Rutgers transfer #4 Austin Carroll is a 6’4” combo guard who will likely play significant minutes off the ball, but also spell Munoz at the point for several minutes as well. It will be a Brewster Academy reunion, something that happens quite often in college basketball, as Carroll and Minnesota’s Maurice Walker were teammates there. Like Walker, Carroll has played sparingly thus far in college because of injuries, but is now ready to go.
  • Freshman guard #14 Jesse Reed has good size at 6’5” and is a guy to watch on the perimeter.
  • Texas product #1 Kyle Kager looks like he will be a decent scorer for the Eagles at some point, but he’s probably a year away. Still, he’s a long, 6’8” kid who can score inside and out and could cause mismatches.

THE TEAM

In 2011-12 the Eagles took an average amount of 3-point attempts, but were extremely accurate. This season’s team should be a bit more focused on interior scoring with the loss of their top shooters and the available 1-2 punch of Lumpkins and Wroblicky.

Shooting
The Eagles will need to shoot the ball very well if they are to compete. Last year they were 17-0 when their offensive efficiency was 100 or better and 3-12 when it was under 100. They won’t be at 100 without a solid effective field goal percentage.

The trick for American this year will be shooting a much higher 2FG% than the 44.0% achieved a year ago, because they won’t shoot from long range as often and they will not be as accurate. The Eagles shot 39.4% behind the arc (and an amazing 45.2% in conference games) a year ago.

While improvement upon their poor 2FG% from a year ago appears an easily achievable goal for the season, scoring buckets inside will not be a breeze against the Minnesota defense. If the Lumpkins-Wroblicky combination doesn’t produce a high field goal percentage, the Eagles will stay grounded and unable to compete.

Defensively, American may give Gopher fans a look at what their team can do against a zone defense. If Minnesota struggles getting the ball inside early, they may need to call upon the Juice Man Julian Welch to come off the bench and give them a third player who can squeeze the trigger from deep.

Turnovers
It’s often discussed as a point of emphasis, but the Gophers haven’t been able to show much improvement in taking care of the ball. With so many returning players we’d have to believe there will be improvement this season, but how much?

American generally takes things slow and neither coughs up the ball a lot nor generates many turnovers. Minnesota often commits unforced turnovers and we could see the Eagles winning the turnover battle, albeit by a small margin.

Rebounding
This could get interesting. Tubby Smith plans to start Elliot Eliason and Rodney Williams with three guards. Eliason against Wroblicky should be a good battle, but add in Lumpkins against Williams and the advantage may go to American. That said, Minnesota has Trevor Mbakwe and Maurice Walker on the bench.

The battle of the boards should be entertaining and could go either way. The Gophers would love to make a statement that they are not going to be out-muscled on the boards by anyone this year, but this is an interesting challenge to start off the schedule and it will be tough for them to dominate the Eagles from start to finish.

Free Throw Rate
People love to talk about free throw percentages, but what really matters is getting to the line. If Minnesota does so early and often Friday night, it’s probably in large part due to Tony Wroblicky getting into foul trouble, which would .

The Gophers put opponents on the charity stripe too often in 2011-12 and Eliason was often a culprit. With Mbakwe and Walker on the bench, foul trouble for Eliason individually isn’t a big concern, but giving the other team free throw attempts is.

Summary
The Gophers should win comfortably, but American could keep it close early on.

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2012-13 Player Previews: Minnesota Golden Gophers

This article is available in PDF format. Bookmarks are included to facilitate navigation: CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD: 2012-13 Player Previews: Minnesota Gophers

High-level player previews and season expectation for each scholarship student-athlete on Minnesota’s 2012-13 roster are included below. Players are listed in one of three sections: Point Guards, Bigs or Wings.

This year’s team has enough experience and skill to produce Tubby Smith’s best year since he’s been in the Twin Cities. However, whereas most have described the team as having great depth, we believe there are currently 8 players that belong in the regular rotation.

At the end of this article, we offer our preferred lineups (although we fully expect the Minnesota coaching staff to use the bench far more).

POINT GUARDS

Andre Hollins

6’1”, 200 | Sophomore
21.1 mpg, 8.7 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.8 apg

Dre is the team’s best go-to scorer as he’s able to score in various ways. He gets nice elevation on his jump shot and is accurate out to well past the 3-point arc. In addition, Hollins can put the ball on the floor and get to the rim. We expect he’ll finish stronger and more consistently as a sophomore.

Last year, Dre made just 40.5% of his 2-point attempts (team average was 50.6%) and that must improve. Another area for improvement is reducing turnovers (26% turnover rate). Hollins had just 0.85 assists for each turnover.

As he’s entering his second year at Minnesota, Dre’s profile including last season’s numbers point to an impressive sophomore year. The obvious growth in confidence that Hollins exhibited late last season will carry over well.

Expectations: 11-14 ppg; improved A/T ratio; eFG% increase of 2.5%+; under-90% FT%.

Julian Welch
6’3”, 195 | Senior
24.7 mpg, 9.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.9 apg

Welch is an excellent spot up shooter and can hit from mid-range off the dribble. He fought through injuries last year and was still one of the biggest contributors to the team. The Gophers can’t afford to have him sitting on the bench too often. We believe he should play the role of backup point guard, but also get time alongside Dre Hollins as shooting guard. Very important player and  underrated by most.

Expectations: 8-12 ppg; lower 3FG% due to high comparison (43.8%); lower TO Rate by 3-5%.

Maverick Ahanmisi
6’2”, 192 | Junior
13.3 mpg, 2.7 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 1.6 apg

Despite some limitations, Ahanmisi does play with a lot of heart. We’d have him as a fill in option should Andre Hollins or Julian Welch go down, but suspect that Tubby Smith will play him for 10 minutes or so in most games.

In seven career starts against Big Ten teams, Ahanmisi doesn’t have a win and has gone just 9/40 (22.5%) from the field. His turnover rate improved as a sophomore, but it’s still far too high and although he can knock down an open triple, he finished the year below 30% in each of his first two seasons.

He does provide Minnesota with an experienced point guard option should they run into injury problems.

Expectations: 2-4 ppg

BIGS

Trevor Mbakwe
6’8″, 245 | Senior
28.7 mpg, 14.0 ppg, 9.1 rpg

Mbakwe is coming off an ACL injury and it could be awhile before he’s feeling completely comfortable on the floor, but even at 80% he’s be better than most guys at 100%. Absolutely ferocious on the boards, we expect he’ll again be one of the best rebounders in the conference.

Thanks to his long wingspan and athleticism, Trevor can handle playing center for Minnesota, but with Elliot Eliason and Mo Walker also available he may find most of his time at power forward. We’d like to see what Mbakwe and Rodney Williams can do along with three guards on floor, but a question coming into the season is how often Tubby Smith will utilize such a lineup.

Regardless of where he plays, Mbakwe should be on the court as much as he’s able to be. He’s a game changer and leader on the floor.

Expectations:  11-14 ppg, 9-11 rpg

Elliot Eliason
6’11”, 260 | Sophomore
15.1 mpg, 2.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg

He’ll never be known for being graceful, but Eliason’s size is enough to get him minutes. He put together superb rebounding numbers last year and this fall looks much stronger and even a bit taller. When Eliason and Mbakwe are in the lineup together, the Gophers should be able to keep the number of second chances for the opposition lower than last season.

Two areas where Elliot must improve are turnovers and fouling. We believe these will still be issues for him in 2012-13, but less so than last year.

Expectations: 4-5 ppg, 5-7 rpg

Maurice Walker
6’10”, 289 | Sophomore
Redshirted in 2011-12

Big Mo’s freshman year ended in December 2010 due to a PCL injury. He’s ready for action this year and provides a different look at center than Eliason. Walker is an immense presence who can bang down low and secure rebounds despite a lack of lift.

His touch is very good for someone his size and he could turn into a nice scoring option for Minnesota. If Mo can stay healthy and get his conditioning up, he’s a difference maker. Really nice potential and could be excellent on the offensive glass, but probably a year away.

Expectations: Anywhere from 4-8 ppg and he should produce a couple of standout games.

Andre Ingram
6’7″, 213 | Senior
8.8 mpg, 1.9 ppg, 1.6 rpg

Ingram transferred in from Butler Community College (Kan.) before last season and provided some solid minutes off the bench late in the year. He’s got a history of injuries that may continue to nag, but is a strong and tough interior player with good athletic ability.

He’ll be called upon to help off the bench and provides another option should one of the other bigs go down. His job will be to defend, rebound and take care of the ball when it’s in his hands.

Expectations: 2 ppg

WINGS

Oto Osenieks
6’8”, 205 | Sophomore
11.1 mpg, 3.0 ppg, 1.7 rpg

Oto was needed inside last year and will probably be called upon to play a couple of different roles this season. He was brought into the program as a perimeter threat, but was stuck inside much of last year. He gave a good effort on defense, but ideally we’d have him playing out on the wing on both sides of the court.

Osenieks turned the ball over a lot last year and shot just 11/41 (26.8%) from 3-point range and 16/34 (47.1%) from the line. We attribute these poor numbers largely to inexperience and nerves. While he’s still not looking consistently comfortable on the floor this fall, he’s a very good shooter.

With the lack of proven 3-point shooters this Gopher team has, getting Osenieks some experience and opportunities to build his confidence before the Big Ten season begins could help down the stretch. Oto needs to be confident in his shot and good things will happen.

While we see him as a reserve player at this point in time, he’ll probably get a fair amount of floor time to prove himself from Tubby Smith. Osenieks is capable of having a game where he knocks down 4 or 5 3-point shots and keys a victory for Minnesota.

Expectations: Anywhere from 3 to 7 ppg; dramatic increases to his 3FG and FT percentages.

Rodney Williams
6’7”, 200 | Senior
31.9 mpg, 12.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.4 bpg

Williams took a big leap forward as a junior, but he can’t let up. He needs to consistently produce and fully embrace a simple fact: he’s an incredible basketball player.

When he’s in a groove and playing with confidence, Rodney is a special player. Sure, he has his faults: his perimeter shooting is not strong and free throws are a source of frustration. However, his size and athleticism is such that he can be a star without taking 3-point shots and making only 60% of his free throws.

Potentially playing with both Mbakwe and one of the two big centers in the lineup also on the court, the coaching staff needs to find ways to keep Rodney involved in the offense.

As a junior, Williams played more minutes than he did during his freshman and sophomore years combined. While his handles aren’t great, we believe as a senior he’ll be able to create off the dribble a bit more and is capable of putting together an all-conference season if he can keep the fire going strong all year.

Expectations: 11 to 15 ppg and more recognition of his defensive play. The national folks know Rodney can dunk with the best of them, but this year he should further prove his value on defense. We project his offensive efficiency to go slightly down, but his overall Value Add to increase.

Austin Hollins
6’4”, 185 | Junior
28.4 mpg, 9.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg

Austin was terrific overall last year, but must be consistent. On defense he uses his length well and on offense he shot the ball with high accuracy, including 51/138 (37.0%) on 3-point attempts. Hollins and Julian Welch were easily the most valuable players on last year’s team after Rodney Williams.

Austin’s usage rate was under 18% and in another year as a senior he’ll need to increase that figure based on how the roster currently projects. This year as a junior, usage of 17-19% is fine as long as he is knocking down the deep ball at a percentage as good as, or better than, last year’s.

We’d like to see better consistency and a little more aggressiveness from Austin this year. He’s not the flashiest player, but he can make teams pay if they don’t respect his athleticism.

Expectations: 10 to 12 ppg; team leader in 3-pointers made

Joe Coleman
6’4”, 200 | Sophomore
18.8 mpg, 5.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg

Joe is an aggressive attacker that can find his way to the rim and draws a lot of contact. Coleman was a strong kid coming into the program a year ago, but is even bigger this year. He’s fearless when taking the ball inside and that’s exactly what the Gophers need him to do.

His perimeter shooting is not good and this season it’s not needed. He’ll want to continue developing his outside shot, but in games this season Minnesota needs Coleman to concentrate where he excels – attacking the basket.

If he capitalizes on offensive opportunities when they’re there, but doesn’t push things when they’re not, this can be a very nice year for the sophomore.

Expectations: 7 to 9 ppg; Top 15 in conference free throw rate

Charles Buggs
6’8”, 198 | Freshman

Buggs may find himself playing inside more often than out, but offensively he’s a face up guy with good range. He’s ridiculously long and quite athletic; an intriguing prospect.

We think it will take some time for Charles to catch up defensively at this level, but if the Gophers need him to play, his length may help mitigate him being out of position.

Buggs looks like a versatile 3/4 that can run well, score and defend multiple positions. Give him a little time, though.

Expectations: 3 to 5 ppg

Wally Ellenson
6’4”, 200 | Freshman

Ellenson possesses amazing leaping abilities and a strong work ethic. While he can impress with his dunks, Ellenson can also heat up from the outside with a nice shooting stroke.

Wally suffered a broken hand in practice and is likely out until sometime in December. It’s possible the Gophers would look to keep him out of action for the entire season in order to preserve a year of eligibility, but if they need minutes off the bench from a tough energy guy who can shoot, he’ll be ready to go.

Expectations: Dependent on recovery and rehabilitation from injury.

Late Night Hoops’ Preferred Lineups:

LINEUP 1 LINEUP 2
Andre Hollins Andre Hollins
Julian Welch or Joe Coleman Austin Hollins
Austin Hollins Rodney Williams
Rodney Williams Trevor Mbakwe
Trevor Mbakwe Elliot Eliason or Mo Walker
SUBS: Julian Welch or Joe Coleman, Elliot Eliason and Mo Walker SUBS: Julian Welch, Joe Coleman and Elliot Eliason or Mo Walker

In lineup 1, Welch provides a third 3-point threat and another ball handler, whereas Joe Coleman provides an attacking guard.

In lineup 2, the benefits of Eliason vs. Walker need to be compared relative to the opposition.

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Gophers, Huskers Target Tory Miller Reclassifying to 2014

Tory Miller, a 6’8” power forward originally from the Kansas City area, is reclassifying to the 2014 class according to his head coach at New Hampton School (NH), Pete Hutchins. Miller has been recruited as a 2013 player by a number of programs, including Minnesota and Nebraska.

Having previously attended high school in the Kansas City area and spending summers with the KC Run GMC AAU program (formerly known as KC Pump n Run), Miller transferred to New Hampton for the current school year.

He’s a big bodied post, but raw in most areas. An ACL injury as a freshman cost him some development time and we believe the reclassification makes sense. First, it allows him more time to develop which should be very beneficial based on his potential and where his game is currently at.

Also, with good upside and an opportunity to play in a great New Hampton program, we believe the interest in Miller from high majors will increase quite a bit from where it currently is. From a Minnesota and Nebraska perspective, this likely means the competition to attract Miller to their programs just got a lot tougher.

New Hampton School plays a challenging schedule and will allow Miller to practice with other future high major players including Noah Vonleh, a 2013 (recently reclassified from 2014 down to 2013) star who is considering Big Ten schools Ohio State and Indiana. Vonleh is also a 6’8” forward, but has a far more versatile game for his size than Miller does.

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