On Saturday night at Richmond, the Golden Gophers passed their biggest test of the season. Using a match-up zone defense, and some timely scoring, they turned a small deficit into a comfortable win. It was an important game for a team still learning what they are capable of. Syracuse is looming in the not so distant future. For a chance for a season-defining victory in November, they can’t afford any slip-ups this week, especially against Coastal Carolina.
The Chanticleers come in to Tuesday evening’s game with an 0-2 record against Division 1 teams. They lost on the road at Akron by nine and at home to Mississippi by two in what can only be called a chaotic slop fest (72-70 in a 79 possessions game). If a team can’t be good, they might as well be entertaining, and the Chanticleers are certainly entertaining. Shot selection is not something they have heard of, and neither is the shot clock. They average over 71 possessions per game, which is two possessions more than the suddenly speedy Golden Gophers. Oddly, the Chanticleers are traditionally a slower paced team, but are clearly trying something new this season. Their speedy play has not led to better offense. Their inefficient offense against Mississippi was not an aberration. The Chanticleers offense ranks 320th in the country, scoring only .942 points per possession. They rank in the bottom 80 teams nationally in all offensive categories except offensive rebounding, where they rank 157th. Particularly concerning for the Chanticleers against the Gophers should be their inability to take care of the basketball. Only 10 teams in the country allow more steals, and give away the ball on over 20% of possessions.
The real shame is that the Chanticleers’ putrid offense is taking away a decent defensive season. They have managed to force just as many turnovers as they have given up, rebounded well on the defensive end, and have played good enough interior defense to keep them in games. That defense and rebounding has come at the expense of foul trouble. They rank 313th in keeping opponents off the free-throw line. If they could manage to play defense without fouling, they could win a few games even if their offense does not improve.
As you might imagine, a bad offensive team doesn’t feature many good offensive players. Somewhat appropriately, the most efficient Chanticleer, El Hadji Ndieguene doesn’t shoot nearly enough. The 6’10” senior forward is shooting 53% from the field, the best on his team, but is seventh on the team with only 13 shot attempts. Meanwhile, leading scorer Elijah Wilson (15 points per game) and Warren Gillis are both shooting under 40% from the floor.
Coastal Carolina is not a good team, and the Golden Gophers should win easily. That is, as long as they stay out of Coastal Carolina’s way.