Pitino Not On The “Hot Seat”; Gophers 2016-17 Outlook
Many preseason “coaches on the hot seat” articles list Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino and state that a poor season on the court would spell trouble for Pitino. We believe the only way Pitino would be on the hot seat is if there are continued off the court issues for the program’s student-athletes. There are a few reasons why we don’t see Pitino being on the hot seat absent off the court issues. Those reasons are listed below.
Late last summer, Minnesota entered into an amendment with Pitino which effectively caused his buyout to skyrocket should he be fired without cause. If Minnesota were to terminate Pitino’s employment next March, the buyout would still be nearly $6 million.
Minnesota’s APR situation is poor enough that it may dissuade potential future coaches from joining the program. The 2014-15 single year score of 860, coupled with an issue in 2015-16 puts pressure on maintaining an APR above the 930 cutline in the future.
Due to how the APR is calculated for penalty purposes, the year most at risk related to 2014-15 is the 2019-20 season. Courting a head coach in the spring of 2017 becomes more difficult when a part of the negotiations and discussions are, “yes, in year three there’s a risk we’ll be banned from postseason play… but, hopefully that won’t happen.”
Now, there’s a good chance Minnesota is able to keep above the 930 cutline; however, it’s undeniable that the Gophers are in a worse APR position than most other schools.
Team Composition The Gophers were #311 in the nation in weighted average experience last season. This year, we project them to move up approximately 50 spots. Minnesota has a great chance to exceed expectations this year – most are slotting them as the #12 or #13 team in the Big Ten. To see them outperform those projections wouldn’t be a surprise. After several solid teams at the top of the conference, the Gophers should be able to hold their own against much of their peers.
In 2017-18, we project Minnesota’s experience to be closer to 100 to 110. In addition, there are many new faces this year who will be returning to play another year with their teammates. The 2017-18 roster is not one you’d want to break up as they could blossom into a tournament team that might have one of their better Big Ten performances in years.
Summary & 2016-17 Outlook
For the reasons above, we don’t see Pitino being on the hot seat absent off the court issues. Other quick thoughts on the season ahead:
- It’s not unreasonable to set a goal of 9th or 10th place in the Big Ten.
- The top 8 man rotation is solid. You’ve got Lynch and Murphy inside, with Konate and Curry to help. At the guard/wing positions, Mason/Coffey/Springs/McBrayer provides four guys for three positions that we believe can have strong seasons. After these 8, Hurt and Gilbert are two that could earn playing time. There’s not a ton of depth, but if the top 8 can stay healthy and on the court, Minnesota’s not a bad team.
- The nonconference schedule is interesting. While the “big names” Minnesota will face are relatively weak squads, the Gophers don’t have much in the way of awful opponents. This is good news for their RPI, but there are some nonconference opponents to be extremely wary of, including Arlington and Northern Illinois.
- Four Factors – Offense: eFG% will jump, but 3FG shooting (quantity and %) is a concern; TO% – hope to maintain or only rise slightly, not much room for improvement; OReb% – Joey King gone, Murphy, Lynch, Konate, Curry will help drive this up nicely; FT rate – Lynch & Murphy should produce here.. don’t sweat the FT%.
- Four Factors – Defense: eFG% should improve nicely… 3FG% due to personnel and luck, 2FG% without King and with Lynch should show great improvement; TO% – maintaining is fine, but opportunity to improve with reach of McBrayer, Coffey and gang is there; FTrate – might trend a bit unfavorably, but that’s not a big deal.
- Jordan Murphy is well respected by the Gopher fan base, but he had a sub-100 ORtg and only shot 47.6% eFG%. Should focus on what he does well (e.g., 41 3FGA’s was too much last year) and he can show a lot of improvement.
- McBrayer is waaaay better than his 90.5 ORtg last year shows. Upside is considerable here.
- We’d say a lot of the same things about Amir Coffey that we did four years ago HERE. We project his usage at 17% to 18%… would like to see him push it up closer to 22% to 24%. A little more aggressiveness scoring the ball would serve him well. Special talent – how involved in the offense will he be?
- Nate Mason’s shooting last year was poor. Must be better and he can be. Looking for a nice bounce back this season.
- Reggie Lynch’s presence – blocks, shot alterations – is so important. Must show huge improvement at staying away from fouls. Not sure he can do that this year and would expect foul trouble for Lynch to be the norm. Still, very important piece.