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Golden Gophers vs. Norther Illinois Huskies

7:00 pm (CST) at Williams Arena (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

Radio: WCCO 830 AM

TV: Big Ten Network

Tickets: Best available- Row 10 upper deck, free throw line

Liveblog: We’ll have a chatroom up

When the final horn sounds tonight making official what will inevitably be a blowout win over the Northern Illinois Huskies, there will be only one game left until the start of the Big Ten season. The Gophers can’t afford to look ahead, but I can and will. Northern Illinois only has 1 win this season, and could challenge Brown for the worst non-conference game in The Barn. There just isn’t much to preview.

The great news is that Ken Pomeroy has released his individual statistics and game predictions for the season. I’m not a math person and could never begin to properly explain the calculations that he uses  to come up with his oh so useful stats, so you may want to liberally click back to his site when something clearly doesn’t make sense. What you do need to know is that his individual statistics are based on a per-possession basis. This allows comparison between two players who have dramatically different amounts of playing time, and enables comparison between players who play for teams with dramatically different styles. His game predictions are based on how teams have played against whom and where with some adjustment  for home court advantage.

The first statistic that Pomeroy shows us is percentage of minutes played. This couldn’t be more straight forward. The big surprise here is that even though Blake Hoffarber took a while to move into the starting line-up, he was already playing starter minutes and that Devoe Joseph is as well. Lawrence Westbrook, the teams leading scorer, plays the sixth most minutes. The Gophers really are a deep team, with only Al Nolen cracking the top 30 in the Big Ten. Minnesota should have the freshest legs in the conference in March when teams start to get tired.

1. Al Nolen 65.8%

2. Damian Johnson 63.5%

3. Ralph Sampson 56.5%

4. Blake Hoffarber 56%

5. Devoe Joseph 55%

There has been quite a bit of consternation surrounding Minnesota’s perceived lack of offense. The offense was lacking during the three game losing streak when the Gophers acted like points were awarded for passes around the perimeter, but the Gophers have played much better since then, and the individual offensive statistics show that. Offensive Rating measures how likely a player is to score while they are on the court. Eight Gophers score above 100, meaning most players on the team are above average. The depth of the team and the lack of a go to scorer holds down the individual numbers. Once again though, there is a big surprise.  You mean you haven’t heard that  Blake Hoffarber is the Gophers most efficient offensive player? Or that Rodney Williams is the second best? Or that defensive specialist Damian Johnson is number three? Hoffarber actually ranks 7th in the Big Ten and Johnson 19th. Williams’ numbers are a bit skewed because of his lack of playing time. Ohio State has the top three players in Evan Turner (may his back rest in peace), John Diebler, and Dallas Lauderdale.

1. Blake Hoffarber 123.4

2. Rodney Williams 119.1

3.  Damian Johnson 118.6

4.  Al Nolen 110.6

5.  Devoe Joseph 107.7

Percentage of shots taken doesn’t tell us much in and of itself, but when comparing the percentage of shots taken to offensive efficiency, it tells us who really needs to think before they shoot. Lawrence Westbrook, this means you. Westbrook may be the only real go to scorer on the team, but he need to do a better job if he is going to shot so often.  Al Nolen needs to shoot more, ranking fourth on the team in offensive efficiency but he takes the least shots. Ideally, the players who score the most will shoot the most. Westbrook ranks tenth in the conference with his free shooting ways, Devoe Joseph 19, and Damian Johnson 30th.

1. Lawrence Westbrook 28.3

2. Devoe Joseph 24.8

3. Paul Carter 23

4. Damian Johnson 20.7

5. Blake Hoffarber 20.7

Some other tempo-free tidbits:

  • Ralph Sampson and Colton Iverson both rank in the top 9 in offensive rebounding percentage, and top 7 in defensive rebound percentage.
  • Al Nolen records assists the sixth most often in the conference, Devoe Joseph ranks 17th.
  • Blake Hoffarber, Devoe Joseph, and Damian Johnson are the least likely Gophers to commit a turnover.
  • Ralph Sampson, Damian Johnson, and Colton Iverson are three of the six best shot blockers in the conference, and all rank in the top 100 nationally.
  • Al Nolen ranks eighth and Damian Johnson 26th in steal percentage. No other team has two players in the top 26 in this category.
  • Rodney Williams has made 78% of his two point field goal attempts.
  • Justin Cobbs has a better shooting percentage from behind the three point line

Ken Pomeroy designed his team rating not just to compare teams, but to predict who would win a hypothetical match-up between two teams. The sample size is still a little small, but his predictions sure are interesting. The good news is that Pomeroy’s numbers make all the hand wringing surrounding one bad week look a little silly. If  the numbers hold up, the Gophers will easily make the NCAA tournament. The only predicted losses  are at Ohio State, at Michigan State, and at Purdue. A 15-3 conference record should be enough to win the Big Ten and garner a high tournament seed. Beware though, Pomeroy’s predictions looked a lot like this a year ago, and we all know how that turned out.