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Minnesota 2009 NCAA Tournament Preview

 

Minnesota Golden Gophers - Big Ten Conference (22-10, 9-9)

Seed: #10 East Region

RPI: 42

Big Wins: 12/20 vs Louisville (70-64), 1/3 Ohio State (68-59), 1/29 Illinois (59-36)

Bad Losses: 1/18 at Northwestern (65-74), 2/14 at Penn State (63-68), 3/7 Michigan (64-67)

Last NCAA Appearance: 2005, First Round loss to Iowa State

Coach: Tubby Smith (29-13 in 14 NCAA appearances)



Probable Minnesota Starters:

  • Al Nolen, Sophomore, Guard, 6.6 ppg, 4.3 apg, 1.9 spg

  • Lawrence Westbrook, Junior, Guard, 12.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg

  • Damian Johnson, Junior, Forward, 9.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.0 bpg

  • Ralph Sampson III, Freshman, Forward, 6.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.5 bpg

  • Colton Iverson, Freshman, Forward, 5.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.3 bpg

 

Key Minnesota Roleplayers:

  • Jamal Abu-Shamala, Senior, Guard, 3.7 ppg, 1.6 rpg

  • Devron Bostick, Junior, Guard, 4.1 ppg, 1.5 rpg

  • Travis Busch, Junior, Guard, 3.8 ppg, 1.7 rpg

  • Paul Carter, Sophomore, Forward, 5.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg

  • Blake Hoffarber, Sophomore, Guard, 6.5 ppg, 1.3 apg

  • Devoe Joseph, Freshman, Guard, 5.1 ppg, 1.6 apg

 

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Why The Golden Gophers Can Surprise:
The quick turnaround under Coach Tubby Smith in Minneapolis is in large part due to the team’s defense. The Gophers average nearly nine steals per game and rank in the top ten in the nation with 6.2 blocks per contest. The starting frontcourt consisting of Damian Johnson, Ralph Sampson III and Colton Iverson is 6-7, 6-11 and 6-10, respectively. Those three alone are accountable for 4.8 of the team’s blocks per game.

Despite having three big guys like that starting, the Gophers are not very strong on the glass, but the big guys help in other ways. Johnson is a versatile scorer who can battle in the paint and knock down the outside shot, although he could stand to take a few less three-pointers. Sampson, just a freshman, is becoming more aggressive offensively with every game and could be in for a surprise tournament run if he keeps improving. Like Sampson, Iverson is also a freshman whose best games are still ahead of him.

 

Why The Golden Gophers Can Disappoint:
Minnesota did a pretty good job keeping the turnovers down early in the year, but that became a major issue during the team’s stretch of losses starting in January and extending well into February. It is not all the point guards fault, but Al Nolen has to be the guy who turns it around and keeps Minnesota under control. Usually the Gophers are a very disciplined team that will take smart shots and take care of the ball, but that has not always been the case during this season. If the careless Gophers show up in March it could be a short trip.

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Who To Watch:
Lawrence Westbrook is the only player on the team to average double digit scoring.It will be important for the Gophers to find another scorer or two in the backcourt. Blake Hoffarber is certainly an option. The 6-4 sophomore’s scoring, and playing time, has been pretty inconsistent this year, but he can put 19 or 20 points up in a game like he did against Colorado State in November and Ohio State in February. Even players on Minnesota’s deep bench like Devoe Joseph and Jamal Abu-Shamala have the ability to score ten or more points on any given day. It is difficult to tell where the Gophers scoring will come from, but Coach Smith has plenty of options on the perimeter…he just has to figure out who is going to have a big day.

 

Minnesota By the Numbers:

Scoring Offense: 66.8 (183rd in nation, 4th in conference)

Scoring Defense: 61.3 (37, 6)

Field-Goal Percentage: 44.5 (135, 8)

Field-Goal Defense: 39.9 (32, 3)

Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 5.9 (198, 8)

Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 33.6 (179, 9)

Free-Throw Percentage: 72.4 (61, 3)

Rebound Margin: 2.9 (83, 3)

Assists Per Game: 14.4 (82, 6)

Turnovers Per Game: 14.8 (243, 10)

 

Joel’s Bracket Says: Second Round loss to Duke

 

By Joel Welser
CollegeSports-fans.com Senior Basketball Writer

 

> Find more 2009 NCAA Tournament coverage online from College Sports Fans and print your NCAA Tournament brackets today!

 


 


 

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