Home » Columns » Currently Reading:

Minnesota’s big challenge is in front of them

November 28, 2014 Columns No Comments

NEW YORK – Minnesota made it through one challenge in their schedule, leaving Madison Square Garden with a win in two tries. At this point, though, the challenge is just beginning for them, with the hope that their 66-62 win over Georgia gives them just the boost they need to start.

Just before Wednesday’s semifinal loss to St. John’s, the school announced that guard Daquein McNeil was suspended indefinitely following a recent arrest. The sophomore was charged with two counts of assault after allegedly choking his girlfriend and whipping her with a belt. He will remain suspended until the legal process plays out, and that can take any amount of time.

With McNeil out for an undetermined amount of time, the active guards are pressed into more duty. He’s not their best player, but for the way this team plays, McNeil’s loss is in the overall numbers as it takes one more guard out of the lineup. It doesn’t mean much more production is needed since he isn’t a big offensive player. Rather, it means more minutes, primarily, for everyone else. It means staying out of foul trouble given a lack of depth. It might also mean going with more of a traditional lineup more often, using three forwards instead of three guards. It might mean that Kendal Shell, who played a grand total of 40 minutes in his first three seasons, now has to play appreciable minutes.

It’s also a challenge for the coaching staff in managing lineups, and head coach Richard Pitino admitted that much.

“It’s difficult right now, coaching-wise, figuring some things out,” said Pitino. “We just need practice, and the biggest thing we said is don’t get in foul trouble.”

The challenge becomes more pronounced given the way the Golden Gophers want to play. They forced 18 Georgia turnovers on Friday, including 15 in the first half. They turned those turnovers into 23 points, all in the first half, and that combined with a 7-12 mark from long range put them up at the break.

Success with the press should help with offensive challenges, though the Golden Gophers don’t seem to be lacking scorers. But doing it also usually requires depth, and that’s a challenge with McNeil’s absence as well as Andre Hollins having been bothered by an ankle issue earlier, though Pitino said he thinks Hollins is healthy now. It’s also what this team wants to do and won’t shy away from.

“We want a high number of steals and we want to turn teams over,” said Pitino. “That’s got to be our identity.”

Pitino added that the personnel challenge also means some changes in defensive strategy in the halfcourt. They used a matchup zone on Friday that they only recently added in. Georgia shot 62.5 percent in the first half, but turned the ball over 15 times, so there was a small sample. However, the Bulldogs were just 1-7 from long range. For the game they ended up below 46 percent, including 3-14 from long range.

While the Bulldogs made it a ballgame late, getting within a possession in the final minute, the Golden Gophers had enough of a response to seal it. Nearly losing a 16-point lead is concerning, as is going 12-23 at the line, but they did enough to pull this out.

Minnesota’s best chances for a shelf life win in non-conference play have come and gone. They lost to Louisville and St. John’s before beating a Georgia team that is good enough to challenge for an NCAA Tournament bid. This win might have some shelf life later in the year. Among remaining non-conference opponents, they are at Wake Forest next week in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, and a win there probably won’t have shelf life, especially after the Demon Deacons lost to Delaware State later on Friday. The last six non-conference games after that are all at home and none are against teams likely to be in position for an NCAA Tournament at-large bid. Wins will help them build confidence for Big Ten play, and it’s in the Big Ten where the big wins will be needed to get into the NCAA Tournament.

The Golden Gophers hope much of Friday’s win is a blueprint for success. They’re down in numbers, which hurts for how they want to play, but they have no choice but to adjust. They sped Georgia up, and they continue to turn teams over as they are forcing over 20 turnovers per game thus far. If they keep that up, they may be able to overcome getting out-rebounded. One challenge is in the books, but a bigger one is just beginning.

Comment on this Article:







Subscribe to Hoopville

Enter your email address to subscribe to Hoopville

Advertisement


Hoopville Archives

College Basketball Tonight

We hope you enjoyed COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT during the 2016 NCAA Tournament. COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, along with co-hosts Mike Jarvis and Terry O'Connor, both former Division I coaches. It also included many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

The show aired on AM 710 WOR in New York City on Sunday evenings starting with Selection Sunday and running through the NCAA Tournament.

Here are links to the shows:

March 13, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 20, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 27, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

April 3, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

Everybody Needs a Head Coach

Former college basketball coach Mike Jarvis has a new book out, Everybody Needs a Head Coach.

"As you read this book, I hope that Coach Jarvis' experiences inspire you to find your purpose in life."
-Patrick Ewing, NBA Hall of Fame center

"Mike Jarvis' is one of my special friends. I am so pleased that he has taken the time to write this fabulous book."
-Mike Krzyzewski, Five-time NCAA championship head coach, Duke Blue Devils

"In reading this book, I can see that Mike hasn't lost his edge or his purpose. Readers should take a look at what he has to say."
-Jim Calhoun, Three-time NCAA champion, UConn Men's basketball

Review on Hoopville coming soon!

Coaching Changes and NBA Draft Early Entrants

The coaching carousel is moving. Keep track of the latest coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

Also, keep track of players who have declared early for the NBA Draft.

Hoopville Podcasts

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – May 17, 2017

May 18, 2017 by

In our latest podcast, we start with the NBA Draft Lottery, then talk about a big pickup for Duke, important transfers, the coaching carousel winding down and much more.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 27, 2017

April 27, 2017 by

In our latest podcast, the business of college sports, as well as that of sports media, takes center stage. We talk about the layoffs at ESPN, college basketball’s opening night, and Wichita State’s departure from the Missouri Valley Conference. We close with thoughts on a departed friend of the media business as well.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 11, 2017

April 11, 2017 by

In our first off-season edition, we look back on the season that just ended, including redemption for one team and a big development for a conference that has had more questions than success on the hardwood. We also look at players coming and going, as well as big coaching news on a day where there was a lot of it.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 3, 2017

April 4, 2017 by

We look back at Monday’s national championship game, which was not a thing of beauty but had plenty of drama. Along the way we share some post-game quotes from both coaches.

College Basketball Tonight – April 2, 2017

April 3, 2017 by

In our Final Four special edition, three head coaches join us to offer their insights on the Final Four, as well as their own programs.

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter

Recruiting Coverage

Notes from a day at the 2017 Northeast Hoops Festival

April 11, 2017 by

The Northeast Hoops Festival helped bring in the new spring travel season in New England, and we have notes from some of Saturday’s action.

2016 Boston Back to School Showcase notes

September 12, 2016 by

We look back at the 2016 Boston Back to School Showcase, where a couple of Boston City League teams were among the most impressive on the day.

2016 Hoopville Spring Finale championship recap

June 28, 2016 by

We look back at the championship games of the 2016 Hoopville Spring Finale, which had a big local flavor as one might have expected.

2016 Hoopville Spring Finale preview

June 24, 2016 by

We look ahead to the 2016 Hoopville Spring Finale, held at a familiar location in Boston.

At the 2016 Boston Shootout, host BABC has a big day

June 8, 2016 by

Sunday was a big day for the host program at the 44th Boston Shootout