Editors note: We are excited to add a new feature here at From The Barn. A reader (now writer) who has chosen to remain anonymous (so far) will be grading every player based on their performance the previous week. We plan to post new grades every Monday, along with a running GPA for the season. This week’s grades only include Friday’s game against Lehigh.
This summer I would say there were Gopher fans that were wondering as to how much of an impact this JUCO PG would make, but we can all safely say that his contribution will be sizeable through out the season. Dre is able to slice defenses off the dribble and the best Gopher we’ve had at penetrating defenses since our last true point guard, Al Nolen. Dre figures to be a menace in press and will be a bother for many B1G PGs for the next two years.
Offensively this game only scratched the surface for Dre as he and an explosive exhibition season. Shooting only 5 shots will not likely be a part of a winning game plan for the team’s quickest guard and Mathieu will need to find a balance between distributing and scoring. His team leading nine assists in this game is a bit misleading considering how many of those assists came to wide open shooters that will be covered up by more athletic teams, but these passes were still on time and on target. Mathieu will be counted upon in late clock situations and will need to strike a balance between being Nate Robinson and being Aaron Robinson.
A legitimate threat to end in the top 5 of scoring in the B1G this season, Dre Hollins got his season off to a relatively slow start on Friday. Gone are the days watching Dre pound the ball for the first 15 seconds of the shot clock while we run him off of three screens, Dre should have an easier time carrying the scoring load because the work is coming to him. Taking Dre off the ball should go a long way to increasing the productivity of our leading returning scorer. That being said Coach P isn’t quite ready to anoint our new SG, and after the game said, “The time to be passive is for last year. We need you to be aggressive”.
On the surface, shooting 13 times doesn’t seem like a passive game but I am firmly on Pitino’s side here. Dre picked his spots too carefully during this game after starting the game by flashing his shooting touch from 3 point range on in. 20 shots per game is a realistic goal due to off-season improvements to his mid range shooting and all around floor game. Look for the 12-foot banking floater that he hit in the first half to become a staple of his interior offensive game this year as Dre still struggles to finish at the rim around length. After a dip in FT% last season, Dre managed to go 7-7 from the foul line and I believe that 90% from the line should be a season long goal for the younger Hollins.
The lone Senior in the starting line-up played a pretty nondescript opener by his standards but showed off his incredibly steady floor game. Austin should continue to be a monster on the defensive side of the ball and along with Mathieu should be towards the tops of the B1G in steals. Austin’s place as the “center field” of the Pintio press suits his skills very well as his length and anticipatory skills are incredibly valuable. Leading the team in minutes played, Austin is this teams most important cog and he is a top two-way player in the league.
Austin’s “B” grade may not be doing him justice in this game because of elevated expectations this season. Austin is expected to get double digit points while facilitating the offense to a degree and playing solid defense, which is exactly what he did. In order for this team to improve upon its projected standing in the B1G we’ll need Austin to take a leap forward in production. Going from a complementary guard to a starring guard can be a difficult transition, but its one that this team needs.
Good grades all around! It really is tough to be critical in a 20 point win to start the season, but Oto I believe showed a glimpse of the player he will become over the course of this season. As noted by every media member in the area, Oto has already matched last season’s totals from 3-point range. Labeled as a knockdown shooter when he was recruited, Oto has never shown a promising outside stroke and it is something fans have been clamoring for. While Oto’s mechanics have always looked solid, his trigger has always been quick and his confidence has always been crushed by the maligned Tubby line changes that never allowed for offensive flow. Oto already looks to be a main beneficiary from the regime change.
While all appears improved on the offensive end there are defensive points that need to be corrected. Defensive rebounding has already been exposed as a weakness for this team and Oto has to make a concerted effort to turn that around. Once the ball is secured, Oto needs to remember that despite the fact that he is playing post this season, he is not in fact going to be able to push the ball with the dribble. Twice Friday night Oto got the ball on the break and made poor decisions that lead to turnovers. It is my belief that these are effort plays and once he becomes more comfortable and secure in his role these issues can be turned around.
With learning just hours before the game that the team would be without Mo Walker the spotlight on Elliot shone a little brighter in this game. Considering the rest of the frontcourt, Elliot was considered a relative known commodity. Everyone knew he would hustle, look funny while shooting the ball, and complain to refs, but I’m not sure there was anyone who was expecting a full breakout game. Channeling his inner Trevor Mbakwe, Elliot finished with 17 boards and 11 points in limited minutes (insert Tubby rotation joke here). On top of outstanding statistical production, Elliot managed to affect the game with his length on the inside, end-to-end rim running ability, and his ball screening was top notch last night. The biggest concern in this game was and is always the fouls that seem to find Elliot, but if he can stay out of compromising match-ups on the inside, I believe that this type of production may last.
Someone looks happy to be home. Joey played an outstanding overall floor game with a team high 20 points in 27 minutes of action. Shooting 6-10 from the field and 6-8 from the line, all while demonstrating that he has the basketball intellect to compete while jumping up a league from the MVC. Joey will need to improve his secondary stats in that he only contributed one rebound and one steal to go along with his scoring.
Right now there seems to be a mini-controversy as to whether King should supplant Oto as the starting PF but I don’t see it. There is an already established chemistry between Oto and Elliot in the frontcourt that was evident in the spacing and familiarity of the cutting between the two posts that did not exist when Joey was on the court with Elliot, or when they were forced to go small with Joey and Oto. Then I believe there are legitimate concerns with the athleticism that Joey showed in this when the Gophers go up against BCS opponents. At 6’6” and limited explosiveness, he’ll have to rely on a crafty set inside finishes in order to finish in the paint. Ideally Joey won’t have to spend a lot of time banging down low, but our current roster seems to necessitate just that.
The first in what could be a long line of one-year rentals, Malik Smith made his Gopher debut as the first guard off the bench for Pitino this season. Statistics from FIU had shown Smith to be a shooter, but on Friday he confirmed he is here to shoot until his arms fall off. A familiar face for Pitino to fall back on is important here in the early going, but unless Smith looks to diversify his game, I’m not sure that only contributing 3’s and experience will be enough to justify heavy minutes. In this game, Malik did contribute two boards, two assists, and one steal, on 2-6 shooting from 3 point land and you would like to think there are going to be explosive games ahead once he becomes more comfortable with being on the court at the Barn. It is my belief that this Gopher team will beat a few teams that they are not supposed to because of outside shooting, and particularly bench shooting. Malik is another player I’m still concerned and curious as to how his athleticism and height match up against BCS opponents.
Managing expectations here, I thought Mav looked good. Hit his only shot from the field and both of his free throws, I believe that Maverick will post career highs in percentages across the board. This is an effect of having a diminished role of course, but in terms of building a team you couldn’t ask for a better back up guard. A team captain for a reason, Mav will provide leadership through out the team and his experience over the last four years (for better or worse) has to account for something.
After an entire year off to sit a watch, you would have hoped for a better start from the lanky forward but that was not the case. In only two minutes of action Buggs looked like he had his head in the clouds with poor positioning offensively and defensively and the only stat he accumulated was a foul. I still have high hopes for the redshirt freshman simply because he is only one injury away from having to play a prominent frontcourt role and he is oozing natural ability.
Mo Walker and Wally Ellenson
Very disappointing for both players to start the year with suspensions, especially when they crop up hours before of the first game. Mo’s timetable is an iron clad six games where as Wally’s is a little unclear. I won’t speculate on what happened here, the only note is that both players worked really hard to get ready for their season opener and they both spoiled it.
The only scholarship player to not enter the game last night. Many are guessing that he is a candidate for a redshirt and I’d have to say that given our depth at guard this season that may be a wise decision.