Yes, it turns out. Basketball games on the west coast that are unseen do in fact count. The Golden Gophers beat the mediocre at best USC Trojans in rather convincing fashion. Minnesota is the 2012-2013 champion of maroon and gold. How about that?
Normally I’d try to provide some analysis of what happened. Since the closest I came to actually seeing the game was ESPN’s game tracker, we’ll have to get statistical.
- Tubby Smith team’s have always had balanced scoring. Unfortunately, all too often that was because no one on the team had the ability to step up when it mattered. This team is different, and it is balanced because everyone can and has stepped up. Against USC four Gophers scored in double figures and Austin Hollins was two points short. On the season, four average 10 or more points per game, and Trevor Mbakwe will likely reach that mark by the Michigan State game. Five Gophers are capable of dropping a 20 point game without it being a noteworthy accomplishment. This team has fire power.
- Julian Welch and Maverick Ahanmisi scored six points apiece, and Welch had an impressive four assists in only 17 minutes of action. With the scoring dominated by the “Big Five” there aren’t that many points left to go around, so it is important that the bench players maximize their production while in the game. The two Californians scored eight straight points midway through the first half.
- The Gophers may have cured their turnovers plague, though it might be too soon to say so for sure. They are now committing turnovers on 22.3% of possessions In each of last four games, they have taken care of the ball better than any game since the season opener against American. Joe Coleman was the main catalyst for the turnover problem, and has also been the solution. He was turnover free against the Trojans, and hasn’t had more than two turnovers in a game since the Stanford game.
- Minnesota is still the best offensive rebounding team in the country, pulling down a probably not sustainable 47.4 of their misses. The USC game was actually their worst offensive rebounding game of the season, though they still pulled down 31% of their missed shots compared to USC’s offensive rebounding percentage of 21.6.
- Trevor Mbakwe continues to play incredibly efficient basketball in limited action. His 26 minutes Saturday night was nearly a season high (he played 27 minutes against Richmond). He scored 12 points with the help of 6-6 free-throw shooting. Despite playing just shy of 18 minutes per game, he is tied for the team lead in free-throw attempts at 50 and second on the team with 34 made free-throws. Compared to 2010- 2011 on a per-possession basis, he is more efficient offensively, is a better offensive rebounder, a better shot blocker, and draws more fouls. Rumors of any struggles are greatly exaggerated.
- The weekly polls come out on Monday, and logic would dictate that the Gophers jump from #14 in the AP poll to #13 after Gonzaga’s loss to Illinois. Gonzaga was actually the only team ranked ahead of the Gophers to lose. There is a good chance they will jump another spot or two since some clearly misinformed voters neglected to rank them anywhere in the top 25 last week. That won’t happen this week. On December 10, 1996 the Gophers were ranked 17th, before eventually being ranked 15th on eve of the Big Ten season. The 2012-2013 Golden Gophers are ahead of that schedule.