Hindsight Review: 2012-13 Minnesota Gophers Projections

April 25, 2013
Hindsight Review: 2012-13 Minnesota Gophers Projections

NOTES: Yesterday we published a hindsight review of our 2012-13 team previews for all other Big Ten teams. Excerpts of preseason previews are indicated by “blue quotes”. More about “Value Add” can be found at www.valueaddbasketball.com and Breitbart Sports. Many of the efficiency statistics referred to in this article are from KenPom.com.

Minnesota (T-7th place; #9 seed in B1G tourney)

“The pieces to win are there, but it will be up to Coach Smith and his staff to optimally assemble them for the desired result…(Minnesota’s) top players can compete with anyone”

The Gophers didn’t realize their potential in 2012-13. This was largely due to coaching decisions. Before the season started we talked about “the fallacy of depth.” Most media – be it national or local – was on board with the notion that Minnesota was an incredibly deep team that would benefit from being able to play many guys without a drop in production.

You can find some of the many examples of how “the fallacy of depth” affected
the view people had of Minnesota’s bench in the first half of the year at this link.

“Having healthy bodies available is not the same thing as having great depth. We believe there are two optimal lineups (depending on the opponent) for Minnesota this year and also believe that Minnesota’s best players can add significantly more value than the rest of the roster.

However, Tubby Smith has used a relatively large bench in the past and frequently has subbed in three to five players at the same time within the first 10 minutes of games. The difference between winning and losing a game in the Big Ten and against competitive nonconference opponents is not large and lineup choices can greatly influence outcomes.

There are a lot of kids who can play and help the Gophers this year, but there is a core of seven or eight players that should get the great majority of minutes. Based on history, Tubby’s game plan may not agree.”

This was a polite way of saying Tubby’s in-game decisions would likely cause Minnesota to lose more games than they should. It’s not a knock on the roster as a whole, but the fact is Coach Smith had four high Value Add players yet he would routinely sit most or all of them for periods of time in games.

“The Gophers should be able to reduce their turnovers in 2012-13. Last season’s turnover rate was nearly 23% and in conference they gave up the rock more often than any other team.“

Minnesota’s turnover rate declined to 21.5%. That’s still not good, but it did represent a decent reduction from 2011-12.

“Minnesota should be able to improve in three defensive areas (although perhaps not the most important area – field goal defense)… In recent years Minnesota has been one of the better shot blocking teams in America and they should be good again this year. However, they will miss Ralph Sampson. With Mbakwe and Sampson unable to play much of last year, the team’s block % fell and one result was a rise in their opponents’ 2-point field goal percentage. We don’t see a big issue here in 2012-13, but a nice improvement doesn’t look likely either.”

The Gophers came through in the area of defensive eFG% thanks to a 42.8% 2FG% (down from 45.1% a year ago). Helping the decrease in defensive eFG% was strong shot blocking from not only Mbakwe and Williams, but Elliott Eliason and Andre Ingram. In general Minnesota dominated their weak nonconference opponents and struggled against good teams.

However, their defensive turnover and defensive free throw rate performance in 2012-13 was flat and their defensive rebounding was slightly worse than the prior season.

Overall the Gophers’ defense improved a bit (97.9 unadjusted defensive efficiency vs. 99.7; 92.7 adjusted vs. 94.4), but with the improvement in defensive eFG% it could have been far more substantial.

“Last year Rodney excelled when working with a lot of space inside. Williams took more than half of his shots at the rim and was incredibly efficient in doing so. The majority of these shots were created with the help of assists and many were made possible because he was playing with three guards and a center.

If Minnesota has Walker or Eliason out on the court with Mbakwe and Williams, it’ll require more creativity on the coaching staff’s part to get Williams the ball where and when he needs it.

Meanwhile, Rodney has just one more year to prove that he can improve his ball handling and perimeter shooting. While we believe he can show improvement, having Williams trying to create his own shot or knock down 3-pointers is not the most efficient route for him or Minnesota’s offense.”

Williams was given some more freedom and had a solid season, but his eFG% did drop from an impressive 59.0% as a junior to a career-low 48.5% as a senior.

“For several reasons, we believe the lower 3FG% by conference opponents last year was partly due to chance and in 2012-13 we project it to rise. Combined with the possibility of more attempts coming from behind the arc, the Gophers have a big challenge if they are to reduce their overall field goal percentage defense in the Big Ten.”

Conference opponents made 32.8% of their 3-point field goal attempts in 2011-12. That figure jumped to a brutal 36.9% in 2012-13. Although Minnesota’s 2FG% defense in conference games improved, opponents raised their eFG% by 0.5% because of the large increase in 3FG%.

“Andre Hollins – Dre is the team’s best go-to scorer as he’s able to score in various ways…. 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%.”

  • Small improvement in his 2FG% to 41.5%.
  • Averaged 14.6 ppg
  • Improved his A/T ratio; assist rate (25.3% vs. 18.5%) & turnover rates (19.7% vs. 25.7%) improved.
  • eFG% increased 4.5%
  • Shot under 90% FT (80.6%).. he’s good, but he’s not quite 90%+ good like he shot freshman year.

“Julian Welch – 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%.”

As one of the team’s few 3-point threats we feel he was underutilized by Minnesota in 2012-13. He played only 12.8 minutes per game.

  • Averaged 3.0 ppg.
  • 3FG% fell from 43.8% to 28.9% (only 39 attempts compared to 109 in 2011-12).
  • Turnover rate lowered by 3.4%.

“Maverick Ahanmisi – 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.

Expectations: 2-4 ppg”

  • Averaged 10.5 mpg & 3.3 ppg

“Trevor Mbakwe – Absolutely ferocious on the boards, we expect he’ll again be one of the best rebounders in the conference…. Mbakwe should be on the court as much as he’s able to be

Expectations:  11-14 ppg, 9-11 rpg”

  • Averaged 24.9 mpg (not enough), 10.0 ppg, 8.7 rpg. 
  • In conference games those numbers were 29.6 mpg, 10.9 ppg, 9.8 rpg.
  • Top DR% in conference; second OR% (to Mitch McGary)

“Elliott Eliason – 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”

His minutes per game fell to 13.7 (from 15.1). We had projected a modest increase.

  • Averaged 2.2 ppg & 3.5 rpg
  • Turnovers and fouling continued to be issues in 2012-13. His turnover rate increased to 27.7% (from 24.1%) while his fouls called per 40 minutes declined to 5.3 (from 5.8)

“Mo Walker – 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”

  • Averaged only 6.6 minutes, 2.2 points and 2.0 rebounds per game. 
  • OR% was a team best 16.9% in limited minutes.

“(Andre Ingram) Expectations: 2 ppg”

  • Averaged 1.8 ppg.

“(Oto) 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…. Oto needs to be confident in his shot and good things will happen.

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

It was another tough year shooting from distance for Osenieks. Many of his misses weren’t tough breaks, they were really bad shots. Nerves looked to be getting the best of him again and we still believe in his shooting abilities.

  • Averaged less than 10 mpg and 2.2 ppg
  • FT% rose from 47.1% to 79.3%
  • 3FG% dropped from 26.8% to 7.7% (2/26)

“Rodney Williams – the coaching staff needs to find ways to keep Rodney involved in the offense.

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.”

  • Averaged 10.1 ppg.
  • In regular Big Ten games averaged just 8.5 ppg. In all others he averaged 11.8.
  • ORtg of approximately 107 was down from 113 his junior year.

“Austin’s (Hollins) 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.

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

  • Averaged 10.7 ppg.
  • Was second on the team in 3PM (53), far behind Dre Hollins (81). No other player had 20.
  • Austin had a good year overall, but only shot 33.8% 3FG, down from 37.0% as a sophomore.

“Joe Coleman – 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”

  • Averaged 8.7 ppg. 
  • Free throw rate / drawing contact went in the wrong direction for Coleman. 4.7 fouls drawn per 40 went down to 3.2. 
  • He shot the ball better (50.7% 2FG vs 45.0%) and the mid-range J was improved, but he didn’t get to the line often.

No other players logged 50 minutes or more during the season.

Relative to Value Add projections…

Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins both were better than projected; very good years.
Rodney Williams and Julian Welch (minutes) came in below projections.

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