Minnesota 2010 NCAA Tournament Preview
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Minnesota Golden Gophers - Big Ten Conference (21-13, 9-9)
Seed: #11 - East Region
Big Wins: 11/26 vs Butler (82-73), 1/9 Ohio State (73-62), 3/13 vs Purdue (69-42)
Bad Losses: 1/17 at Indiana (78-81), 2/11 Michigan (63-71), 2/14 at Northwestern (74-77)
Last NCAA Appearance: 2009, First Round loss to Texas
Coach: Tubby Smith (29-14 in 15 NCAA appearances)
Probable Minnesota Starters:
Devoe Joseph, Sophomore, Guard, 9.6 ppg, 2.9 apg
Lawrence Westbrook, Senior, Guard, 12.7 ppg, 2.2 apg
Blake Hoffarber, Junior, Guard, 10.2 ppg, 1.9 apg
Damian Johnson, Senior, Forward, 10.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.9 bpg
Ralph Sampson III, Sophomore, Center, 8.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.5 bpg
Key Minnesota Roleplayers:
Paul Carter, Junior, Forward, 6.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg
Justin Cobbs, Freshman, Guard, 2.1 ppg, 1.3 apg
Colton Iverson, Sophomore, Center, 5.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg
Rodney Williams, Freshman, Forward, 4.3 ppg, 1.6 rpg
Why The Golden Gophers Can Surprise:
The season did not start out very well for Minnesota when a few recruits were unavailable to play. But Coach Tubby Smith toughed it out and worked with what he had, which was not a bad team at all. Unfortunately, the high expectations following the NCAA Tournament appearance a year ago were not met, but this is still a good defensive team who has the talent to beat just about anybody on any given day.
The frontcourt consisting of Damian Johnson, Ralph Sampson III and Colton Iverson is 6-7, 6-11 and 6-10, respectively. Those three are all fine shot blockers and that is where the talented defense begins. Despite having three big guys like that, 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. Sampson has become more aggressive offensively this season and is hitting the glass quite hard. While he has not had that huge leap between his freshman and sophomore campaigns, he has had some great outings. Iverson has seen his scoring output decrease as a sophomore, but he is a stronger rebounder than last season and a great big body to have available off the bench. And Iverson has been playing his best ball down the stretch. Throw in 6-7 freshman Rodney Williams and this is a team that has a lot of frontcourt potential and options.
Why The Golden Gophers Can Disappoint:
Al Nolen was the steady point guard on this team. At least he was until he was declared academically ineligible in late January. That forced sophomore Devoe Joseph into the starting lineup. And for the most part Joseph has done an admirable job. He is a much better scorer and shooter than Nolen, but more importantly he has done a solid job of keeping the turnovers to a minimum. However, this is a team that commits too many turnovers and the absence of Nolen has not helped. The ineligibility of Nolen has also moved Justin Cobbs up a notch in the rotation. Cobbs is just a freshman and plays about a dozen minutes per game and at times he will have to play important minutes when Joseph needs a break.
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Who To Watch for Minnesota:
While Joseph gives the Golden Gophers another scoring option in the starting lineup, the backcourt already has a couple in Lawrence Westbrook and Blake Hoffarber. Westbrook is the multi-dimensional scorer who can shoot and get to the basket. However, Westbrook has been terribly inconsistent all year long. Hoffarber is one of the best shooters in the nation. He connects on nearly 47 percent of his 5.1 long range attempts. Hoffarber will not take too many shots inside the arc, but at 6-4 he does have enough size to play the small forward position and help out on the glass.
Minnesota By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 73.4 (82nd in nation, 2nd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 64.1 (67, 6)
Field-Goal Percentage: 47.4 (29, 3)
Field-Goal Defense: 40.0 (40, 2)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.0 (81, 6)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 40.1 (9, 1)
Free-Throw Percentage: 70.2 (127, 7)
Rebound Margin: 2.0 (118, 6)
Assists Per Game: 17.2 (4, 1)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.7 (78, 8)
Joel’s Bracket Says: Sweet Sixteen loss to Kansas State