Thank you to everyone who submitted questions on twitter, even if some were (hopefully) less than serious.
Crochots asks: “With the gophers suffering from routine cranial rectal inversion, what do you think is the best way to solve this problem?
The Gophers obviously have some sort of mental block that prevents them from playing up to their potential. Short of a new coach and new players, the easiest solution is to just play basketball. Of course it is oversimplifying matters, and it isn’t easy to block out feeling of disappointment let alone the constant coaching change chatter. Luckily, playing UCLA shouldn’t be too mentally or emotionally grueling. The game should be fast-paced, up and down, and actually fun, even for the players. That might be enough for the Gophers to forget how to lose.
@edeanor asks: Who guards Shabazz on Friday?
Shabazz Muhammad was the number one recruit in the country last year, and has a chance to be the number one NBA draft pick this spring. Limiting him will obviously be a top priority. Rodney Williams will be his primary defender, and Austin Hollins will likely guard him a few possessions. Against Illinois, especially in the second half, the Gophers used a variation of a box and one on Brandon Paul, a player similar to Muhammad with some success. If Williams or Hollins get in foul trouble or can’t slow Muhammad down, we’ll see some junk defenses if nothing else works.
Brad Farve asked: How big of an advantage is our rebounding?
Minnesota’s rebounding advantage can’t overstated. It is massive. We all know how well the Gophers rebound on the offensive end (best in the country by far), and their weakness on the defensive end (234th in the country). UCLA’s offensive rebounding ranks 227th in the country and their defensive rebounding 267th. To make an even finer point, consider that for the season the Gophers collected 44.3% of available offensive rebounds. UCLA secured 44% or more of available offensive rebounds in only two games this season, against Indiana State and Fresno State in November and December respectively. The bigger question is how many shot attempts do the Gophers manage to take. If they commit turnovers they are losing opportunities to get rebounds.
Todd asked: Who are we going to need to play well the most? Austin, Andre, or Trevor?
Can I answer all three need to play well? If I had to pick one, it is Austin Hollins. He is the team’s best perimeter defender, and can be disruptive even if his shot isn’t falling. If his shot is falling, the Gophers are the top 10 team that we had back in January. He can put the ball on the floor and he can pass well. If defenders are able to play off of him, the driving lanes and passing lanes disappear, and the offense gets slow and ugly. You don’t need to look any further than the Northwestern home game early in the season. Hollins was bad in the first half, and the Gophers couldn’t score. He made several three-pointers in the second half, and the entire game opened up. The Gophers have a lot of one-dimensional offensive players, and absolutely need Hollins’ versatility to be the best team they can be.