2008 NIT Capsule: Minnesota
Minnesota Golden Gophers
Big Ten (20-13, 8-10)
Big Wins: 11/20 at Iowa State (68-58), 1/12 at Penn State (76-73), 3/1 Ohio State (71-57)
Bad Losses: 11/27 at Florida State (61-75), 2/12 Illinois (60-84), 3/8 at Illinois (58-67)
Coach: Tubby Smith
Lawrence McKenzie, Senior, Guard, 12.2 ppg, 2.7 apg
Lawrence Westbrook, Sophomore, Guard, 8.4 ppg, 2.5 apg
Jamal Abu-Shamala, Junior, Guard, 3.2 ppg, 1.7 rpg
Dan Coleman, Senior, Forward, 11.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.2 bpg
Spencer Tollackson, Senior, Center, 9.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg
Blake Hoffarber, Freshman, Guard, 8.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg
Al Nolen, Freshman, Guard, 4.3 ppg, 3.6 apg
Kevin Payton, Sophomore, Guard, 1.2 ppg, 1.3 apg
Damian Johnson, Sophomore, Forward, 6.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.3 bpg
Jonathan Williams, Junior, Forward, 3.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg
Why They Can Surprise:
Minnesota does not take that many three’s, but when they do it is a good shot by a player who should be taking the shot. Point guard Lawrence McKenzie hits 2.4 long balls per contest. He can use his speed to get to the basket, but once there he usually looks for a teammate instead of taking the shot himself. Generally that shot for his teammate is an easier shot than he would have, so the pass first mentality is certainly not a bad thing.
Lawrence Westbrook will start beside McKenzie. Westbrook is not as prolific of a shooter as McKenzie, but he hits nearly 40 percent of his long balls when he does take them. His quickness is a great asset and the 6-0 sophomore will use that skill to get to the basket or pull-up and hit the mid-range jumper. Freshman Blake Hoffarber is not much more than a three-point shooter at this point in his collegiate career, but he hits 44.3 percent of his attempts from behind the arc and having a shooter off the bench who is that efficient will spark the Gopher offense when it is struggling.
Why They Can Disappoint:
Minnesota will share the ball well thanks to back-up point guard Al Nolen who dishes out a team high 3.6 assists per game, but they also share the ball with the other team a little too often. No individual commits that many turnovers, but the team as a whole commits nearly 15 per contest. That would not be too bad for a team that plays up-tempo, but Coach Tubby Smith’s team only scores 69.5 points per game. If the turnovers are kept to a minimum, Minnesota can win a game or two, but they have yet to prove that they can beat a great team, especially away from The Barn.
Who To Watch:
Their numbers might be down compared to last year, but the Gophers still work through their big men and it is because of those big men that Coach Smith has reached the postseason during his first year in Minneapolis. The biggest of them all is Spencer Tollackson. At 6-9 and 260 pounds, Tollackson is a load to deal with in the paint on both sides of the floor. He will use his body to get good position on the offensive end and always makes it difficult for the opposition to find space on the defensive side. Yet, it is Dan Coleman and Damian Johnson who will do the shot blocking. Coleman is also the team’s leading scorer and has a decent looking mid-range jumper that will stretch out the defense.
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 69.5 (158th in nation, 3rd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 63.5 (62, 7)
Field-Goal Percentage: 44.6 (143, 5)
Field-Goal Defense: 42.6 (116, 7)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.3 (101, 2)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 37.5 (72, 1)
Free-Throw Percentage: 66.7 (249, 7)
Rebound Margin: 0.9 (146, 7)
Assists Per Game: 15.7 (39, 3)
Turnovers Per Game: 14.3 (164, 10)
Joel’s Bracket Says: Second Round loss to Syracuse
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