Two Keys for Minnesota in 2018-19

Overall, the Big Ten’s composition is such that a couple of teams that look to be bottom-half teams could sneak up and snag a top half (and tournament) spot, especially with some consensus top-half teams we have concerns about, such as Nebraska. We see Minnesota as a bottom half team (around 10th), but there are several areas where, if they perform well, they can elevate their standing. Two of those are discussed below: 2-point field goal percentage and Amir Coffey’s usage.

2-point field goal percentage

The Minnesota Gophers have posted poor 2-point field goal percentages in each of the past three seasons: 47.1% (#284 nationally) last year, 47.5% (#253 in 2016-17) and 45.6% (#287 in 2015-16). In Big Ten play, last year was by far the worst (43.3%, #13) of the three years.

Per KenPom.com, there were 70 Big Ten players who played at least 40% of their team’s minutes and averaged at least 2 2FGA/game (70 / 14 = average of 5 per team) in conference play.

Of those 70 players, only 13 shot under 40% 2FG%. Minnesota had 4 of the 13 (Mason, Washington, Hurt and McBrayer). Their only player not in the sub-40% group was Jordan Murphy, who was an unimpressive 48.7%, ranking him at #32 among the 70.

A major factor has been shot selection for the Gophers, and that’s partly due to a lack of three-point shooters which may continue to be an issue in 2018-19. Another driver has been now-graduated Nate Mason. He’s been a huge part of the offense, but in both the past two years he’s been a sub-40% 2FG% shooter in both conference games and overall.

We believe Minnesota’s 2FG% will improve in 2018-19, but they’ll need a hefty increase to move into the middle of the Big Ten pack.

BartTorvik.com provides shooting splits broken down into (1) at the rim, (2) other 2FGAs, and (3) 3FGAs. The chart below plots other 2FGA data for Big Ten teams last season (full year).

The area a team should want to be at is higher on the chart. This reflects the percentage of other 2FGAs as compared to total FGAs. If you have your choice of shot attempts and aren’t a horrible 3FG% team, you’d much prefer at the rim attempts or good 3FGAs.

Secondarily, you’d want to be toward the right of the chart, which shows the FG% of other 2FGAs.

Minnesota is highlighted yellow (33.7% Other 2FGA share; 34.9% on those attempts), and their position is better than only Rutgers (40.2%; 33.3%). Straight above Minnesota are a pair of teams who shot only about as well as Minnesota (Indiana at 34.9%; Michigan at 34.7%), but that weak shooting is not nearly as punishing because their other 2FGA share was far lower (Indiana 19.9%; Michigan at 20.0%).

The Gophers must move toward the right on this chart in 2018-19.

Amir Coffey

He missed much of his sophomore season due to injury, but is now healthy and playing point guard, which we are a proponent of. Amir needs to be more involved in the offense. Getting the ball in his hands early and often is important and should be consistently done.

As a freshman his usage was 19.2% (but only 17.6% in conference) and as a sophomore it rose to 22.3%, but this increase was helped by the fact he only played in 5 conference games. We’d like to see his usage be at least 24% and believe he’s capable of something in the range of 26 to 28% if there is a concerted effort, which there should be.

However, it’s difficult to project much past 24% based on his history and known traits. In 25 career Big Ten games, he’s had a usage rate of 25% or higher only twice. As a comparison, in Nate Mason’s junior year he hit 25% or higher in 15 of 20 games (including the conference tourney).

At his size, Amir’s passing and scoring ability are unique and key to Minnesota realizing their potential. The higher his usage (within reason – which probably maxes around 28% this season), the better for the team.

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