Finally, the non-conference season is coming to an end. Not only do we get a hyphen and a specific city for the Golden Gophers final non Big Ten opponent, but Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi even brings an ampersand! What else could you ask for? Maybe an interesting basketball game? Well, you’ll have to look elsewhere until January 2nd when the Gophers open Big Ten play against Michigan.
No, TAMUCC is not a good basketball team. In fact, they are the worst team that the Gophers play all season. The Gophers should win in a blow-out, and blow-out win is exactly what the Gophers need right before conference play begins. Without a 20 point margin of victory since the Wofford game way back on November 21st, Richard Pitino hasn’t had the opportunity to make any small tweaks to the offense and defense that could prove crucial later in the season, and more importantly hasn’t had many opportunities to give the bench guys enough time to see what they are capable of.
Assuming the Gophers can play build an insurmountable lead, here is what I’d like to see:
- Play Charles Buggs as much as possible. The power forward situation is dire, and any minutes that Buggs can play now could lead to a few meaningful minutes later in the season. If he looks bad against TAMUCC, we’ll at least know that Joey King and Oto Osenieks are the only options.
- Play Maverick Ahanmisi, but don’t let him dribble. He had made 4-7 three-point attempts this season. Having a secondary three-point shooting specialist (after Malik Smith) isn’t essential, but there will be a situation at some point when the Gophers desperately need a three, and Ahanmisi could be the guy to get it.
- Use a man to man defense for an extended stretch. The reluctance to play anything other than zone has a lot to do with Pitino’s personal preferences as well as the personnel he has available to him. However, as we saw against Nebraska-Omaha, the zone defense doesn’t work well against hot shooting teams. For the Gophers to switch to a man to man defense, and for that switch to be effective, they need experience at game speed.
- Get Kendall Shell the ball and make him shoot. He doesn’t need to attempt 31% of his team’s shots while he’s on the court, like Rashawn Thomas of Corpus Christi, but every walk-on should have a little chucker in him.